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Screaming Dogs

Push Festival illustration by Alan Hindle

By Alan Hindle

Saturday January 15, 2005

And The Metaphysics Of Celtic Under Things

Weihnachtsmann and his naughty-child-beating Christmas weinachtmanstick, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Shock-Headed Peter—For children’s fables too dark and scary for grown-ups, nobody beats the Germans. Except perhaps Tom Waits, William S. Burroughs and Robert Wilson. Their bleak, beautiful, melodious/cacophonous musical Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, which premiered at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg, Germany in 1990, was both a revolution and a throwback to the expressionistic, clown/grotesque shows limping and shrieking around Berlin in the first few decades of the last century. Waits, probably to prevent sub-par cover versions debasing his purist work, forbid any other productions existing besides his own… and that of November Theatre, based out of Edmonton. Michael Scholar Jr.’s 1998 Fringe production, subsequently revived and toured umpteen times, was so impressive that Waits not only condoned Scholar continuing but admitted he intended to steal a few of the Edmontonian’s ideas.

Rider tells the tale of Wilhem (Kevin Corey), a sweet-natured clerk from the city and his true love Katchen (Rachael Johnston), a squirrelly woman-child with a pet armpit sheep. Katchen’s father Bertram (George Szilagyi) is the Duke’s Royal Huntsman, and tradition dictates his daughter must marry a proven Great Hunter. In hobbles the Mephistophelian Peg Leg, a purveyor of magic bullets with a dodgy will of their own.

For fans of Tom Waits there’s little not to please in November’s production, despite the streamlined (but terrific) band and lack of rattling chains, screaming dogs, steam trains and dynamite usually employed in a Waits tune, while the rareness of grotesque clownery in Vancouver guarantees few folks here will have seen much like Black Rider before. On the whole the cast is brilliant— especially Kevin Corey, a graceful, cat-footed performer— and while I may have quibbles it would be petty of me to hold the minor flaws against the overall magic. Personally I loved the show and only wished it could be as perfect as I wished it to be— but hey, Tom Waits likes it, what the hell does it matter what I think?

Black Rider opened this year’s puSh International Performance Festival, and what a line-up it is! Say Nothing, an Irish number about peace, conflict and decent fry-ups for breakfast is one to book right now. Frank is a one-man dance piece by Nigel Charnock, and the Under the Kilt series of talks, readings and discussions about the state of Scottish theatre promises more than chit chat about the metaphysics of Celtic under things.

Trigger, the reworked latest from award-gathering Carmen Aguirre, featuring gorgeous women on trapezes, deals with societal violence in a physical, visual, dance/circus/theatre manner. Not finally, but one biggie of the fest is going to be Crime and Punishment in which pretty much every actor in Vancouver slaps on a Russian accent and does a bit of epic hoofing and warbling.

Ach! This new word-count. My ramble barn is aching to loose the blather hounds but I haven’t the space, so look up and book yourself into the best line-up you’re likely to see before Walking Fish and the next See Seven show.
William Butler Yeats knocked out some plays too?! Who knew? Anthony F. Ingram did, Yeats being one of his consuming passions, and at Pacific Theatre he’s staging three Yeats’ one-acts`: At the Hawks Well, The Cat and the Moon, and Purgatory, with a cast rifled from amongst the best at Bardathon and Studio 58. Ingram is a relentless self-promoter, but he frequently is the business, boy, and his love for the material bodes v. well for this production.