Johnny Legdick

Theatre’s wild side

A guide to the Wildside Festival, 11 days of indie theatre and dance productions.

Theatre Brouhaha’s Delicacy
By now, you’ve probably had enough drama. The kind that’s inspired by close contact with family, harried shopping sprees and extra servings of cookies. The strain of drama that leaves behind eggnog coffee ring stains, cheap glitter and crumpled draft resolutions.

There’s no better way to forget the real drama in your life than by escaping into the manufactured kind. Consider, then, the 18th edition of the Wildside Festival at the Centaur, on from Jan. 7–17.

The festival will present seven short works, ranging from imaginative dance to rock opera to sketch comedy, billed as “innovative” and “up-and-coming.” Meaning: independent and zany work, some of it salacious, that wouldn’t make the regular season billing. Half of the shows were hatched in Montreal, the other half from Toronto, Saskatoon and the United Kingdom.

“It’s a great way to keep from committing suicide,” quipped festival curator Johanna Nutter, acknowledging the brutality of the holiday season. We spoke about the line-up in mid-December for CKUT radio.

“The great thing to do, as soon as it’s over, is to gather at the Centaur with people that you choose to be around as opposed to those you’re thrown into by genetics. I’m planning on making it a really huge party.”

Nutter has co-curated the festival with Centaur artistic director Roy Surette for the past two years. But with the latter presently working on a production out west, the full helm has shifted to Nutter. Under her oversight, a concurrent “Offside” complement has been added to the line-up: a cabaret of musical tributes, mystery theatre radio and “slideshow improv” each night at 11 p.m. in the Centaur’s gallery space.

The Lou Reed tribute (“Take a Walk On the Wild Side”) spontaneously organized during last year’s festival proved a hit, so Nutter saw fit to expand the side buffet of activities. There will also be an exhibition of visual art — a first-come, first-served approach for emerging artists. If you show up with your work, they’ll display everything that’ll fit.

As for the main stage, there’s a varied and strong menu to choose from, with many pieces circling around the desire to establish connections, whether with family, sex partners, old friends or fellow circus freaks.

Take a look at our handy program guide below for details on all seven shows:

Johnny Legdick
Johnny Legdick

1. Johnny Legdick: A Rock Opera is a homegrown collaboration by Playwright Hero and the Jem that proved a fan favourite at Fringe 2014. Johnny returns, padded out with more musical content. Our hero was born with a third leg, so he lives out his miserable life in the circus, until he tries to execute a daring escape.

2. Then there’s Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another, the winner of the Centaur’s Best of the Fringe prize last summer. It’s a puppetry piece about Aiden, who sets about creating a brother for himself following a family tragedy. Created in Saskatoon by Theatre Howl, it’s picked up accolades on the Fringe circuit.

3. Playday Mayday: five friends reunite to review their younger, goofier pasts at a former hangout. For local comedy troupe Uncalled For, their first new show in years is art imitating life. Playday Mayday was conceived over Skype and a few weekend retreats, since half of the made-in-the-West-Island group now resides in Toronto. “It’s really about what happens next and about how we reconnect with those youthful friendships that we sometimes lose track of,” explained member Matt Goldberg. “We try to remember what we loved about being young, what we loved about play.” Their last show at Wildside, Hypnogogic Logic, was a hit, so this a safe bet for warm comedy fuzzies.

4. I’m looking forward to The Way You Tell Them, a one-woman piece by Brit comedian Rachel Mars. Clad in a wolf suit, Mars decides to find out why her Jewish family always falls back on humour in any situation, no matter how tragic or inappropriate. The Guardian had this to say about her Edinburgh performance: “It’s a love letter to comedy, from someone who wants it to mean something.”

perv wildside
Fuck You! You Fucking Perv!

5. Leslie Baker and Joseph Shragge’s Fuck You! You Fucking Perv! is a frantic, solo exploration of the fallout of sexual abuse. Blue-haired Baker has received rave commendations for her dark piece, which first appeared at the Edgy Women Festival, followed by the 2013 Fringe Festival.

6. Theatre Brouhaha’s Delicacy is a comedic spin on swingers, set in Toronto. A wealthy older couple meets a younger duo at a sex club — and they hope sparks will fly on a second encounter at a not-so-sedate wine and cheese.

7. For dance fans, Coming and Going is a meditative four-person piece created by Montreal choreographer and storyteller Stéphanie Morin-Robert and musician and poet Ian Ferrier. Nutter says it’s hard to describe, but put it thus: “This show is just so beautiful. There’s one light source, in a bucket, on a rope. Morin Robert dances the light onto the other performers.”

So, close the Netflix and swap the pyjama bottoms for real pants. Go to the theatre. ■
The Wildside Festival runs Jan. 7–17 at the Centaur Theatre (453 St-François-Xavier). Box office: 514-288-3161.