The Bob and Becky Cabaret

I've been going to a lot of shows of late.

Most of them comedy and most of them improv. Also, most of them Catch 23.

That's been a treat of a show for me (so much good improv) and I've even been working the door from time to time. Double fun, because I feel more a part of everything that's going on when I'm asked to help. And I get into shows for free!


But last Saturday I went to the Bob and Becky Cabaret.
Fun! (I don't know how to write a show review so what follows is just things that I thought about while watching or am thinking about now while I rewatch the show in my head.)

Bob Wiseman is a musician and film maker but has his fingers in all sorts of pies. Delicious and creative pies.

Becky Johnson has a poorly written Wikipedia entry, so I'll link to Sweetie Pie Press which gives you an idea of some of her crafting passions, and maybe if you look hard enough her many other things will become apparent. She's an improviser of no small skill for instance.

Bob and Becky combined to bring together their respective worlds of music and comedy, and introduce some new and fantastic things to one another and the audience that was smart enough to show up.

It was the first time I'd been to The Theatre Centre and it was awesome. You enter through a cafe and come into the space on a darkened balcony with the well-lit stage and seating below you. The result is an instant feeling that you're going to see something mysterious and significant. I'm not clear on why this was the first notion to enter my brain, but I think it's all to do with light and shadow. Standing high above in shadow grants the audience member a sense of power and agency through anonymity. They could remain in the darkness, watching the performance and never need to reveal their identity to those on stage.

The prospective inductee will be tested, put through the rites of our sacred and distinguished order, watched - and judged - from above until such a time as the elders deem their efforts satisfactory or beyond hope for success.

You know, that sort of thing.

I made a comment to Kayla (nickname to emerge in time) about the vibe and she responded jokingly with something along the lines of, "I know, I'm not sure about being here anymore." At first I thought it weird that another person had the same instant sensation of the space, but then I noticed there were two naked dudes, standing motionless on the stage below. She might have been referring to that.

Whatever was going on, the feeling only lasted a moment before we were descending the creaking, wooden, spiral stairs to the seating. And now that I'm thinking about it, we were underground. Just in a big, finished pit with wooden causeways surrounding us. Cool.

I need to remember all this for when I'm creating a religion. There was so much vibing through the room that I feel some aspects of it could easily be played with and made into part of a temple or some such thing. I should mention the religious plans are for a novel (the main deity is a wild boar!) and I am not recruiting followers.
(Although as always feel free to send me money and gifts at your leisure.)

The naked fellows were the first act, John Oswald and Sean Ling. The piece was all about tension and anticipation and also an aesthetic appreciation of the human form. The whole thing took place vary slowly, except for one brief 'fall', and there was really nothing else for it but to watch the muscles at work, doing what they're meant to do. Simple, interesting and not destined to become a feature length film.

Also, it reminded me that nudity has it's place in art and the world at large. So, to all the people who have expressed concern about my past exploits, maybe I just needed a better venue. Well, I definitely needed a better venue. One with fewer than 8000 seats ideally. And I'm not saying the pants are coming off any time soon, it's very likely that they never will, just that sometimes pants come off.

Facts of life people!

Bob and Becky did little performances, along with their hosting duties, which focused on combining comedy and music. There was one live duet with Becky sleeping and playing the accordion while Bob played guitar and sang, but my favourite was the video duet. Bob exercised some of his filmmaker chops, playing live with a bunch of edited Beckys on screen who handled percussion etc. The multi-media nature of Bob's performances always pleases me (well, the two times I've seen him perform I've been impressed).

Hmm, I don't know how to segue here. How about you go to the next room and when you come back I'll be talking about another one of the acts.

John Porter makes 8mm films and performs along with them. I don't think I can evoke the hilarity of a man in a cowboy costume with cap guns having a shoot-out with a lady on screen, you just need to know it was great. As were his other bits of wonder. Sure, many people today can make a youtube video and post it online, but the theatricality that comes from watching a short film live with other people while it interacts with a performer on stage...it's something else.

Helen Donnelly was there to do some of her amazing clowning, on this evening appearing as Foo. And oh man!

I've been developing an interest in clowning lately, both because of the physical nature of the performance and what I've learned about how one develops a clown character.

Physical performance intrigues me. I don't know if I'm better at physical or verbal performance (how distinct can they be?), but I know I'm more likely to commit to physical performance. I haven't done any purely physical performance so the assertion is largely based on how I dance; i.e. with a certain vigor. I don't second-guess myself when I'm dancing and accept every move I make, even the stumbles. And if I figure I'm being watched that's likely to make me put even more effort into it.

That sort of freedom and comfort is what I hope to eventually achieve with improv as a whole, but in the meantime, clowning seems to provide a chance to explore the physical side of things. It might help me with nuance so my physicality is about more than just gigantic, ridiculous moves, impressive simply because few others are willing to try them.

Oh, and it'd probably be good to learn how to interact with someone physically too. While I can dance there's not always the highest degree of control. Put another person near me and there's a chance they'll get cracked in the skull.

The other main interest I have in clowning (besides the nose) is the character development. To my understanding one's clown character is meant to be an extension of the performer. As a performer you do your best to find a core essence or trait and then you emphasize and expand it to absurd proportions.

A lot of my performance work in the past year has been about trying to find out more about me and get better at things that I feel deficient in. I'm still not totally clear who I am (whatever that means), and while I'm not saying clowning will be an epiphany for me, it should be loads of self-exploratory fun.

Foo's performance was great by the way. It was the story of a clown and her sausage and it did a wonderful job of revealing what clowning can be when done well. Given an absurd premise, a skilled clown goes about telling a story that entertains, but also revels in honest emotions.

What is LIFE if not a bucket of ridiculousness that's been left to fester on a porch for too long on the hottest day in the summer? I ask you! Clowns take that crazy shit we all deal with, dial it up to a billion six on the nutso meter, then deal with it using the same gamut of emotions us regular people have available.


I've been trying to explain this with more clarity and less schmaltz for half an hour. Basically, we all deal with the ludicrous in our daily lives and all we can do is keep moving forward, forming relationships, being with one another, living, loving and all that jazz.

Good work clown.

Beautiful stuff.

Phew. I'll close by saying everyone in the show was great. It's always cool to see people creating and giving their all.

...and I just remembered two more things I need to mention.

PDF Format was great and even if his music was crap (it wasn't) the fact he's written two complete rock operas is awesome.

And I would be remiss not to mention Kathleen Phillips. She did a character piece, a dead singer from the 70s, who revealed the secret of life to one and all. Heaven, it turns out, is a waiting room where you sit until you're called to meet God (I've forgotten his name, Doug or Dan or something). God's job is to send you down a chute in a potato sack, and after riding that chute for days, weeks or however long it takes you'll arrive backstage at a show; one that you'll be performing at.

You go out, you do your ten minutes and that's the end of it.

It turns out life is about making sure you have 10 minutes of solid, ready to perform material so when you die you'll be ready for the final show. Go practice everybody.

I do no justice to the brilliance on stage that evening. Support your local arts scene!

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