Some of the best, worst and in-between from Edmonton’s landmark arts festival
My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice
In 1897, a failed Swedish exhibition to the North Pole ends in nothing but frozen despair. Lead by scientist Salomon Andre, a team of explorers attempts to reach the North Pole by hot air balloon while leaving a woman by the name of Matilda who will not forget them. Even 33 years after they set out, Matilda still believes she will see her brother Salomon and her lover Nils again. While the premise of the play seems like a performance that will leave you feeling morose, the actors from Dead Rabbits Theatre have fun and keep it somewhat lighthearted.
The doctors in Stockholm tell Matilda all hope is lost, but she won’t listen. Instead she hallucinates and is driven to the point of hilarious madness involving a polar bear. The transitions between scenes are impeccable and constructed from a single large white sheet that covers the stage. The sheet becomes mounds of snow, water, and at one point a wedding dress. It’s not often a play will take you from cheerfulness to sadness to contemplation in the span of an hour, but My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice does exactly that.
The Blood Countess
The Blood Countess is a one-woman show that details the life of 16th century Hungarian aristocrat and supposed serial killer Elizabeth Bathory. The show begins in darkness, with the odd candle flickering across the stage. Soon, you meet Bathory, who methodically glides across the stage in a red gown and white cap. She then starts her monologue, detailing the early years of her life, only breaking to promote the family’s vino, the Bathory Blood Wine. You can tell where writer and actress Sharon Nowlan is trying to take you. She wants you to decide if Bathory is guilty or not, or if she’s just a deeply disturbed woman who’s become a prisoner of her own thoughts. The problem is, Nowlan’s message gets lost in translation.
It’s hard to keep track of which time period she’s in and even harder to follow her train of thought when it’s delivered in such a monotone, text-driven way. There’s potential, no doubt, but it’s ultimately not fulfilled. The highlight was the strange red light show near the end, and the end itself.
TK421 Is Dead
This bizarre oddity is best appreciated if you’re an ardent Star Wars fan. Clad in navy jumpsuits with nothing but a crate, potted plant, and toaster for props, TK-421’s duo performers embark on a seemingly abstract sci-fi art piece. The obscurity of this setup gives a curious vibe of Samuel Beckett meets H.P. Lovecraft, with its sparsity of dialogue and inclusion of one strange alien life form. As the story unfolds with increased smatterings of science fiction references, it becomes clear that the striking similarities to the plot of Star Wars cannot be a coincidence. Mentions of little boys winning spaceship speed-races, and planets of ice and desert lay down the hints that we are in some way, in the Star Wars universe.
The protagonist’s profession as a garbage attendant—with few friends but a goose-necked, one-eyed alien for company—brings the most compelling evidence that we are, in fact, on the Death Star, awaiting Luke, Han, and Leia’s descent into the trash compactor. It’s a brilliant look into the bleak life of the more overlooked background characters in the franchise. It’s made all the more clever by the lack of immediately identifiable Storm Trooper uniforms, or any direct name-dropping of anything within the series itself until the very end. Anyone living under a rock the past 40 years unfamiliar with the space opera we all know and love may find this one hard to swallow, but die-hard Star Wars fanatics will be delighted with this stripped down, abstract take on the beloved classic.
Mike Delamont: The Devil
If God is a Scottish drag queen, then the devil is a southern Ken Bone-lookalike with a lisp. Mike Delamont gives the devil his due in this wickedly-funny hour of merciless wit. “I’m not evil,” he explains, with his Ned Flanders cardigan and tie. “Maybe a bit of a dick.” Delamont’s devil kills, needing only a skeleton of a script to launch riffs both local (“Why would I go down to Georgia? That’s the Red Deer of America”) to religious (Old Testament God was a sonofabitch. I loved him”). He answers one of his most persistent criticisms: that he wants gays in hell. “You ain’t got the gays, you ain’t got a party. You know what a party without gays is? The Tories.”
The Sinner’s Club
A simple drunken house party soon turns into a hilarious accidental murder, combined with a demonic offering. Patty Swan is hosting a party and has just been told by a half-baked police officer that her “kind of” boyfriend has just died in a motorcycle accident.
Party guests, each with their own comedic intricacies start arriving and make light of the boyfriend death. An unexpected guest, who looks like The Addams Family’s Morticia, has an affinity for satanic rituals and H.P. Lovecraft and takes the comedic situation on laughable gory hell ride. The comedy within the play stems from vulgar bits about miscommunication and the depravity of every day common sinners.
Each person’s deepest darkest desires come out while people start dropping like flies. All the audience can do is watch, laugh, a be part of the demented fun.