Loon – Wonderheads Theatre
You wouldn’t think that one person in a full-face mask not speaking for almost an hour would be an entertaining show, but this melancholic story about a man who falls in love with the moon was incredibly moving. Wonderheads, a physical theatre company from Portland, brought Grim and Fischer to The Cultch last year, and it was so popular they’re back again this season with Loon.
Kate Braidwood plays Francis, a lonely janitor searching for love. He compulsively calls to see if he has any voicemails from his phone dating service, but he is always left disappointed. While finding solace in a comic book from his childhood, the power goes out and the moon is the only light he has. Thus begins his bizarre courting of the moon as he pulls it down from the sky and brings it home.
The set was very simple with only a chair and suitcase on legs that opened up to reveal a phone, alarm clock, light switch, and radio. There were also a set of curtains off to the side that Francis could look through to gaze at the moon — a large white ball lit from the inside.
When Francis brings the moon home, it begins to shrink and he must set it free or lose it forever. During this time, radio broadcasts report on the extreme weather and abnormal tidal patterns that are wreaking havoc all over the world.
Braidwood’s ability to portray such emotional depth from behind a static face mask was impressive. Her body language and gestures conveyed so much meaning that I almost forgot that the mask’s facial expression was a permanent state of dismay. Looking at the giant frown on Francis’ face, his bright red hair sticking straight out, was surprisingly humbling.
Loon is presented by Wonderheads Theatre at The Cultch from November 18 to 23. For more information, visit thecultch.com.
Christmas Queen – Theatresports
If improv and pantomime had a child, it would be Christmas Queen, an “improv comedy fairytale.” This magical story is brought to life each night through audience suggestions and a spunky narrator, who guides the action as the evil Christmas Queen tries to ruin the holiday for everyone. In true pantomime fashion, the audience is told to boo every time the Queen comes on stage, and the Queen is played by a man. This character, with overly perky fake breasts and classic pantomime makeup, is hilarious on its own. With the addition of the other improvised characters and a crazy plot of random elements, the night is guaranteed to be entertaining.
On opening night, the story was set in the town of Florale, where a cat breeder was having trouble getting her cats to mate, a German man was very proud of his borscht, and there were flowers everywhere. The lawn dart toss which kicked off the Christmas season was officiated by the mayor, and romances were blooming.
The Christmas Queen, up on her mountain and emulating the Grinch’s bah humbug demeanour, decided that she would ruin Christmas by contaminating the flowers of Florale with Monsanto seeds. The epic battle between the Queen and the townsfolk involved a look back at the Queen’s past attending Avon University.
Of course the plot sounds bizarre, but that’s what makes the show so much fun, along with watching the improvisers try to come up with jokes on the spot and make fun of each other and the audience as they perform.
Christmas Queen is presented by Vancouver Theatresports from November 19 to December 21. For more information, visit vtsl.com.