Anyone who might have thought that in the wake of the Fringe Festival the almost bewildering growth of Hamilton–area independent theatre might abate is about to be proven abundantly wrong by the Pearl Company.
Their third annual Canadian Theatre Festival is an eclectic, controversial and astonishingly abundant cornucopia of talented artists. You will want to get your tickets early for this!
For the next two weekends the Steven Street gallery, music venue, and theatre will be hosting their third annual Canadian Theatre Festival and organizer and featured playwright Lee Fairbanks is quick to point out that there is more to be seen than Canadian plays at the festival this year.
“With the festival in its third year, now,” said Fairbanks. “We thought we’d like to expand the mandate to include performances of Canadian work that may go beyond the traditional definition of theatre as only plays; we have comedy, spoken word, and even silent films to musical accompaniment.”
The comedy is under the command of Fringe club fixture and compulsively funny man Larry Smith. A veteran of the national comedy circuit, he is bringing several of his favorite Canadian comic compatriots to open the festival this Thursday night, and there will definitely be good laughs for the fifteen dollar admission.
Another absolutely fantastic value–for–money ticket will be the first Friday spoken word show, another fine example of the Pearl’s consistent knack for bringing Hamilton the talent it needs to see, but won’t be seeing at HECFI, or even Aquarius, come to that.
Take the spoken word trio the Dildettes Adorned in Pearls; Cathy Petch is Toronto’s reigning Haiku Deathmaster – as proudly paradoxical a title as anyone could ever claim! She will share the stage with multiple–US slam poetry Champion Regie Cabico, honourary Canadian for the night we assume, and true–blue stalwart Canadian and Poet of many years (a feat in itself), David Bateman.
Cabico is a New York poet for the youtube age, appearing not just in print and obscure poetry clubs, but in HBO specials, and on the MTV spoken word tour. Kind of like America’s Shane Koyczan – who also came to Hamilton via the Pearl, it should be noted.
On the same opening Friday, what is likely the festival’s first musical theatre offering is featured; Alyssa LeClair’s one woman cabaret titled Expensive Cheese (an apt metaphor for musical theatre, too often, alas). LeClair is a local woman who has recently graduated from Queens and is headed to post–grad study in New York City this September, and hopefully we can fill her coffers with coin and her heart with Hammer love before she heads south.
If that wasn’t enough for one weekend, opening Saturday features the musical and cinematic magic–carpet ride known as the VOC Silent Film–harmonic at 7:30 pm. A five piece band provides inspired and contemporary instrumental accompaniment to famous silent films, in this case Dali’s famous eye–ball slicer Un Chien d’Andalou, and the Poe–inspired The House of Usher.
The second weekend is exclusively the traditional theatre shows, namely Fairbanks’ own play, Boris Chemanski: Defender of Freedom, and James Gordon’s controversial and incisively timely, Stephen Harper: The Musical.
Boris Chemanski: Defender of Freedom opens the 9 pm Saturday slot. “It’s a comedy about a man who accidentally ends up being the best man at an illegal gay marriage in Ohio,” said Fairbanks. “When he finds himself unexpectedly confronted with real gay love, he’s forced to examine his own prejudice and discover where he really stands.”
With the tornado of gob–smacking ignorance and bigotry to be found on comment pages web–wide, lately regarding Russia’s anti–homosexuality policies and John Baird’s sudden emergence as an LGBT hero (arriviste is the mot just, really, but ok), this play could not be more on the nose.
James Gordon’s Stephen Harper : The Musical promises to “put the ire back in satire” and with the shortsighted, cleptocratic and undemocratic orgy going on in the capital lately, pretty much anyone should enjoy this, but the Liberals and the NDP will obviously be clapping hardest. Stephen Harper is played by a ventriloquists’ dummy. Perhaps this is not surprizing given James Gordon works for the CBC. Mr. Gordon may also be playing intimate theatre on his cell phone and email for CSIS, soon, if he has even a single Muslim facebook friend.
Fear not, however, for at the Pearl you’re in very good company — the best company, really — and we can make the world a better place, one joke, one poem, one play, one gay marriage, and one neighbourhood at a time. Never in the history of humanity have so many had so much fun changing the world waiting for so few to relax and join the party, to paraphrase Winston Churchill. The revolution will be not be televised, but it will be awesome, one way or another!
The Pearl really is the place to be in Hamilton this weekend, and at an entertainment–to–dollar ratio you’re unlikely to beat anywhere, ever. V
The festival runs August 15 - 24, 2013. See our calendar for complete listings. Click on thepearlcompany.ca