Category Archives: Vancouver 2018
A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
There is a discernible line of English eccentricity runs from the topsy-turvy wordplay of WS Gilbert, through the cheeky sophistication of Noel Coward to the humorous quotidian lyrics of Michael Flanders. The latter, in partnership with friend and composer Donald Swann, produced a string of comic songs that delighted live audiences throughout the 1950s and 60s.
Flanders and Swann are the subject of this witty production (written and directed by John Bett) that sparkles with some of their most celebrated collaborations, “The Hippopotamus Song”, “The Gasman Cometh”, “The Gnu Song” and many, many more. The stage is set like a Victorian parlour with red velvet drapes, dried flowers and a grand piano but any formality is immediately subverted by sound problems with the keyboard and the affectionate teasing of the performers as they introduce each other to the audience.
Both actors appear as themselves, verbally sparring in a genteel fashion as they tell the story of Flanders and Swann. When called upon to perform a song (which they do exceedingly well) a bearded John Jack takes the Flanders’ part while Gordon Cree sings and tinkles the ivories wearing a diffident Swann’s round Billy Bunter glasses. This is a clever device that takes the duo beyond mere tribute status and allows Jack in particular, to bring a frantic physical comedy to the proceedings using a variety of props, as well as a bit of gesticulating, Scottish luvvie banter.
The songs may be familiar but their performance is fresh and lively. And there’s politics too. An ironic discourse delivered on Dr Beeching’s massacre of the rail system, followed by a rendering of “Slow Train”, listing some of the stations that came under his axe, turns out to be a genuinely moving lament. Another surprising gem is Swann’s original tune to “A Red, Red Rose” delivered warmly in a soft bass baritone by Cree. With plenty of apposite details on the lives of the two entertainers sandwiched between the humour and iconic songs, this is a show that enlightens and entertains in equal measure.
A top piece of hat tipping, brimming with fun.
David G Moffat
Valour & Tea love Vancouver, & of course Vancouver loves Valour & Tea. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the intrepid duo…
Hello ladies, so where are you both from and where are you at, geographically speaking?
Val: At present, we are both located in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). But Celene arrived in Alberta by way of Prince George, British Columbia.
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Celene: Probably when I was around 9 years old and was cast as Mrs Claus in my primary school Christmas play. I’ve become a marginally better actor since then.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Val: I believe good theatre accounts for its audience – it requires them to be there. If your audience watches your play and thinks “that would work just as well on screen as on stage” then you’ve missed out. I think this is why so many theatre practitioners are now leaning towards site-specific work, shows that require audience participation, and pieces that are immersive – all of those experiences demand that the audience be present in order for them to happen.
You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Val: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Carl Reiner’s The Jerk and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth
You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Celene: Catherine II, Aphra Behn and Salvador Dali.
Starter: stuffed mushrooms
Main: charcuterie and cheese selection
Dessert: black forest cake (picked up from a bakery)
Stuffed mushrooms always remind me of family and home, and I think comfort food is a great ice-breaker. I’m not terribly domestic and wouldn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen whilst having such luminaries in my abode. Plus, I really like charcuterie.
Can you tell us about Valour & Tea?
Val: ‘Valour & Tea’ is the banner that Celene and I fly over our comedic misadventures. It provides us with an outlet for our mutual love for vaudeville-style duo comedy, as well as our other recklessly ambitious theatre projects. Our official-unofficial motto is “we can totally do that;” we chase our impulsive creative pipe-dreams with a profound bullheadedness and somehow make them work. And – amazingly – audiences seem to like it. Our work is character-driven, audience-interactive, often site-specific, and we always think we’re hilarious.
Six years into your creative journey together, what are you doing differently to when you started?
Celene: We’ve managed to introduce some order to the chaos – we didn’t really know what we were doing with our first show, DOES THIS TURN YOU ON? We had a lot of ideas but didn’t know how to refine and focus them into the greater story. As a result, DTTYO was very manic (though oh so fun) and I think we learned a great deal from that process. We also have the obvious benefit now of a long working relationship: we understand and trust one another. That encourages us to take risks and challenge ourselves, resulting in more interesting work.
You’ve done Vancouver before, with DOES THIS TURN YOU ON? – how did it go?
Celene: We love Vancouver as a city, and as our first non-hometown Fringe it was wonderfully welcoming of our weird clown sketch comedy show. The show received mixed reviews – I recall one person wrote at length about it and I was thrilled, thinking, “Yes, he got everything we were going for!”. And then I read a review where the critic’s one positive note was that it had a short running time. We didn’t lose our shirts, so overall I consider the experience a success. Vancouver is the last of the North American Fringe touring season, so it’s always really special to connect with other artists for one last hurrah. I think that’s part of the reason we keep coming back.
What are the ingredients to your style?
Val: Vaudeville, slapstick, physical theatre, music, dance and a teeny bit of puppetry.
Can you describe your working relationship with Celene in one word?
Can you describe your working relationship with Val in one word?
You’re bringing your new creation, Jan & Peg’s Ritual Sacrifice, to the Vancouver Fringe. Can you tell us about it?
Celene: Two well-meaning housewives, one Tupperware party, one search for the perfect sacrifice. Nothing is sacred in this irreverent romp through the perils of multi-level marketing, proper ceremony etiquette, and ambrosia salad. Join Jan and Peg for some good old-fashioned fun, and who knows? Maybe later a very special guest will be conjured… er, drop by. Come for the cupcakes, stay for the summoning!
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Val: “Oh hi there, hon! What are you doing this evening? Maybe you’d like to attend my totally normal Tupperware party! It’s totally normal and not at all suspicious in any way – say, how’s your liver? You look like a guy who has a really nice set of internal organs. You should bring those to my party – Kidneys, too, okay? Super, hon, see you tonight!”
What will you & your play be doing after the Fringe?
Celene: There are no concrete plans yet, but as we build a repertoire of shows to draw on I think a tour is inevitable. We both love travel and there’s nothing like the working vacation of doing a project in a new city. And as a company we design our shows to be as low-waste and mobile as possible. Have art, will travel!
Tickets on sale August 8th