Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Q&A with Governor General award-winning playwright, Colleen Murphy!

Photo by Heidi Hamilton

How did the idea to adapt a Shakespearean text incorporating Bouffon come about?

When Stephen [Drover] asked me to write an adaptation of Titus Andronicus I wondered how to connect with a play I felt was emotionally vacant but intriguing.  “What makes people so angry they kill children?  What is under such rage? Terrible hurt probably, and terrible grief.”

While adapting the play I was the Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta, working in the same department as Professor Michael Kennard, aka Mump from the incredible duo Mump & Smoot.  Michael teaches clown there and I was inspired by the rigor and the fearlessness he used in his hilarious student presentations.  I felt that given the blood-bath of the 21st century, Bouffon were more suitable to my adaptation because they bring a primal urgency to a story that both begs to be taken seriously and begs not to be taken seriously.

Can you tell us a little bit about the effect that the Bouffon style has on the piece?

The Bouffon style opens up both the emotional and the farcical aspects that are already in Shakespeare’s play.  He must have enjoyed writing it, and there are some beautiful passages, as fine as any he wrote.  The murders and the outrage might even be funny…and the funny is sometimes sad.  The world of revenge is an over-the-top world driven by sad, angry people.

What is something about the show that audiences may be surprised to learn?

Perhaps members of the audience might be surprised to discover that nothing is sacred, that everything is human, including the worse things people do to each other.

Can you describe the show in 3 words?

Fun Meets Death.

What most excites you about bringing this piece to the stage?

Marrying Shakespeare with Bouffon offers another perspective on Titus Andronicus in the 21st century.

Peter Anderson in “The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius”. Photo by Stephen Drover


The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius runs from Nov 22 – Dec 3 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $22 and can be found here.

Opening Tonight: The Pianist Promises Lots of Laughs!

Opening Tonight: The Pianist Promises Lots of Laughs!

Thomas Monckton has been making the world laugh with The Pianist since he first premiered it in 2013. This years’ whirlwind tour included stops in Australia, Hong Kong, Finland, the Czech Republic, England, Scotland, and the USA. After rave reviews all around the world, Vancouverites will finally have a chance to see this clowning masterpiece; opening tonight, October 25, at the York Theatre.

REVIEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD:

“A BRILLIANT hour of choreographed hilarity” – Cameron Woodhead, the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

The Pianist was WONDERFUL…a fusion between Mr Bean and the Cirque du Soleil. The audience laughed from the beginning to the very end”- Salisbury Journal, England

“This show is absolutely HILARIOUS and must NOT be missed…if I could I’d give the show an 8 out of 5” – Lizzi Wood-Vashishtha, HKeld, Hong Kong

“Thomas Monckton is a REMARKABLE, very expressive performer even without a red nose.” – Jussi Tossavainen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland

The Pianist is a show that will invariably pack out audiences and leave them laughing in stitches, and for that it is wholly deserved” – Alex Wood, Theatre Bubble, Scotland

“To see how FUNNY it is, you have to see it…Monckton earns shameless belly-laughter from kids and adults alike” – Marty Fugate, Your Observer, Florida

“The wordless show has a little Charlie Chaplin here, a little Mr Bean there and a delightful sprinkling of CIRCUS MAGIC” – Karen Bailey and Terry Izatt, The Clothesline, Australia

Check out this great video interview with Thomas Monckton, published by the Vancouver Sun

The Pianist runs from Oct 25 – Nov 6, 2016 in the Historic Theatre. Family Packs available! 4 premium tickets for just $120! *A Family Pack includes 2 adult + 2 child tickets (Sec A). Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363

Mump + Smoot: Hstry f Clwng nd Clwn Fobya (Ummonium, translates to History of Clowning and Clown Phobia)

Mump & Smoot live on the planet Ummo, worship the god Ummo and speak Ummonium – their own brand of gibberish. But as cute and cuddly as Mump & Smoot may sound, you’ll want to think twice about hugging these ‘clowns of horror’. Hailed as the ‘Laurel and Hardy from hell’ (Vancouver Sun), the pair of clowns use comedy to address all types of fears, from embarrassment to death to a visit to the doctor’s office. Says Michael Kennard (Mump), “All the horror stuff came from John and I wanting to examine fear and the fear that exists in human nature and the world.” [In ‘Something’,] “we start with a relatively gentle fear—by going to a café—around the issues of etiquette and manners, making a fool of yourself in public and being looked down upon by those who have a different set of decorum,”  John Turner (Smoot) says. “So we start kind of gently.” Which is great news for people who are curious about the show but perhaps a touch afraid of clowns!

If you are afflicted with coulrophobia (phobia of clowns) you’re not alone. Type ‘fear of clowns’ into Google search and you’ll find page after page dedicated to the subject. Before we look at the why, let’s delve a little in to the history of the clown.

The tradition of clowning goes back quite a ways; to ancient Greece even – one could argue that the pantomimes in Greek plays were the basis of the modern day clown. When we think ‘clown’ most of us think of the typical ‘whiteface’ clown – face and neck painted white, eyes, nose and mouth usually painted in black and red, ruffled collar, terrible jumpsuit situation and over-sized shoes. But there are many different types of clowns: jesters and fools often found in Shakespearean plays, the Tramp or Hobo (think Charlie Chaplin), and the character clown (think Rodeo Clown) to name a few.

Mump & Smoot fall into a sub-category of the ever-so-popular, sometimes funny, sometimes frightening and murderous, Whiteface Clown called the ‘Grotesque Whiteface’. Although the word ‘grotesque’ sounds frightful (and is somewhat fitting for a show like Mump & Smoot in Something), the term actually means odd or unnatural in shape, as are the features of this type of clown. The mouth and eyebrows are exaggerated not only with various colors but also shapes and a bulbous red nose is the cherry on top if you will.

So what’s up with coulrophobia? One theory put forth is something called the ‘uncanny valley effect’. This is when, say, a robot or actual person behaves almost human, but not quite, causing people to become extremely uncomfortable or even repulsed. Think of a clown acting sad or in pain but has a huge smile painted on his face. Frightening, no? It also doesn’t help that film and TV has vilified the poor clown like in Stephen King’s ‘It’ featuring the nightmare-inducing Pennywise. But there are also the awesomely hilarious clowns like Homey the Clown from ‘In Living Color’, Krusty the Clown from ‘The Simpsons,’ and our homegrown Canadian duo, Mump + Smoot.

Despite fear being a major component of the show people are coming back in droves and loving it. But don’t take our word for it and check out these rave reviews from Jo Ledingham and Colin Thomas!

Mump & Smoot runs at The Cultch until June 2. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.