Thursday, November 14, 2013

Friend Ship + Blue Wizard

The Tiny Stadiums Festival runs in and around Erskineville from November 13 – 23 2013. Friend Ship and Blue Wizard run at PACT.

For the next two weeks, the Tiny Stadiums festival will be taking over Erskineville. Having gone through the program, it looks like awesome fun – there are workshops, panels, site-specific art and all kinds of cool things happening which you should totally check out if you are in the area. Festival organisers Groundwork look like they’ve done an awesome job!

The festival kicked off on Thursday 14 November, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch, which included two performances devised by Club Cab Sav performers Kenzie Larsen and Nick Coyle. These performances will be running a bunch of times throughout the festival. If you go along, you are in for a treat. Trust me. I had an absolutely fabulous night.

Kenzie Larsen’s Friend Ship is not, it turns out, about a bunch of friends on a ship (a misapprehension Larsen says she laboured under for an embarrassingly long time). Rather, Larsen leads us through a workshop on how to make and keep friends, something which she is qualified to do on account of being a self-taught internet scientist, having spent eighteen months living with seals, being able to read minds, and being extremely popular herself. (You guys. She is so popular.) She wants to cure your loneliness and make your life better, and if that means you have to practice your friendship skills on a pet rock, so be it.

Larsen’s show is deft, quirky, and very, very funny – and you leave with gifts! My theatre date and I now proudly sport matching friendship bracelets, which I’m sure means we passed the workshop. Larsen uses multimedia very cleverly and seamlessly (I was kind of terrified that it would screw up in the way that technology always does, but thankfully, it didn’t). It’s a very culturally specific show – there are some references in there that you might not get unless you’re a twentysomething who grew up watching New South Wales ads, but because I am both of those things, I found said references hilarious. There’s probably some room to heighten and hone a little more, but this is such a great little show. Catch it if you can. I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Kenzie Larsen’s work in the future.

…and if you get the opportunity to stay to watch Nick Coyle play an intergalactic space wizard, you should definitely do that, because his show is awesome. Blue Wizard tells the story of (surprise) the blue wizard, who comes from “a crystal planet where everyone’s gay” (something he tells us through song in his “dance of erotic greeting”) and who has travelled to earth to give the egg of friendship to the pharaoh. But he cannot find the pharaoh, and finds himself wandering in a junkyard, drinking Windex, and wondering what to do with the hatchling, which starts out as a grub-like creature he breastfeeds and calls Grubby, and which transforms into a creepy doll which he names after his boyfriend, John Quark John.

Blue Wizard is very, very weird. It’s humour in the manner of The Mighty Boosh (down to the fabulous hair). While the section before Grubby transforms into baby John Quark John drags a little and could probably use a little work, the show is otherwise very tight. What is most impressive, though, is not only how funny the show is – which it is, so much – but also how emotionally involved you get in the blue wizard’s story. He’s a totally ridiculous character who, hearing an ancient recording of Britney Spears’ Perfume, bursts into tears, but when Grubby turns into the creepy doll (want a culturally specific I-grew-up-in-the-nineties reference? baby John Quark John is a dead ringer for EC from Lift Off), you are genuinely afraid for the blue wizard’s life. And the ending! Which comes out of nowhere and yet makes total sense! I won’t spoil it for you, but seriously, if you think that there is no way you could deeply care about what happens to a gay space wizard whose only friend is a doll, you are wrong.

Coyle is a very impressive performer. This show requires him to sing and dance and operate puppets (as well as dress up as a wizard from a planet where the couture is somewhere between Legolas and He-Man), and he carries it all off. He is wonderfully charismatic on the stage. I hope he creates a sequel to this play, because I so want to know what happens to the blue wizard next. And whether he ever does get John Quark John to smell his perfume.

If the opening night is anything to go by, the Tiny Stadiums festival is going to be awesome. Go and see Friend Ship, go and see The Blue Wizard, and immerse yourself in the culture of Erskineville. I’m pretty sure it will be well worth your while.

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