Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Charge of the Expormidable Moose

Ben Irvine and Sochi Fried (photo by Yuri Dojc)

Gauvreau's Twisted World
An icon of Québec-lit gets an airing in Toronto
by Beat Rice

One Little Goat Theatre Company’s production of celebrated French Canadian playwright Claude Gauvreau’s play, The Charge of the Expormidable Moose, is the English premiere. Gauvreau was one of the leading artists in the group known as Les Automatistes, a movement made up of artists based in Montreal. The style is surreal and highly poetic, even when translated. 

The play is a whirlwind. By the end of Act one I knew not to attempt to make too much analytical sense of what I was seeing. The four young people who live in the house are sadistic creatures who thrive off of manipulating Mycroft Mixeudeim, the fifth housemate who is a poet. It is an incredibly dark play but is set in a visually contrasting and eerie world of people in bright bold colours set in front of a multi-coloured chalkboardlike wall of doors. 

Sochi Friend and Ben Irvine have great chemistry onstage.

In the first act we see a group of two young men and two young women gang up to find new ways of inflicting harm and panic on their housemate, Mycroft Mixeudeim. They sneak poisons in his food that make him lose control of his actions and laugh maniacally at his suffering. There is a point when Mycroft personifies and imitates strange things in a fit, a feat of physical theatre that actor Ben Irvine powers through. It begs us to question whether the four have succeeded in unlocking an uncontrollable manic side that all of us might be suppressing. The most disturbing thing is that for a while we also enjoy how they take the mickey out of him. Are we deep down, sadists too? One day a woman by the name of Dydrame Daduve, played by the enchanting Sochi Fried, crash lands by their residence. She is manipulated to participate in their dark masochistic games and is put to the test by another unexpected guest.

Hume Baugh appears in the second act and delivers an unforgettable performance as Letasse Cromagnon, a menace in a jacket. He is invited by Lontil-Deparey and castigates the four housemates for not being true sadists, as they attempt to justify their action as teachings for Mycroft.  Sochi Fried and Ben Irvine have great chemistry onstage. I understood everything that was going on between them, because they, as actors, clearly have an understanding. I cannot however, say the same for the rest of the ensemble. It often felt as though they were not listening to each other in the scene, but merely waiting for their cue line. It is an extremely challenging play with some very stylized staging with actors running in and out of doors, and aggressive scenes that require precise fight choreography. Director Adam Seelig has created a solid foundation for the play. The production has just opened, and I truly believe it will grow and improve over the course of its run. 

The Charge of the Expormidabe Moose run at the Tarragon Extraspace until May 26
Read also an interview with translator Ray Ellenwood

1 comment:

  1. I loved this play and also realized by the end of act 1 that I should sit back and enjoy the ride. For some reason all I could see is scenes of gitmo and couldn't help comparing Mycroft to a simple herder from Afghanistan being subjected to 24 hour observation and seeking comfort in his own reflection. The plays strength is that despite its attempts of abstraction it speaks to core qualities in each of us. Thank you very much for your review.


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