History of Wild Theatre

By Rhia Perkins

One Yellow Rabbit theatre company is on safari; they’ve been hunting wild theatre and want to show you the fruits of their labour with their newest production, The History of Wild Theatre. Acting as a theatrical documentary, Wild Theatre chronicles the history of performance theatre.

Directed by Blake Brooker the production is unique for the Rabbit, featuring two visiting actors, Anne-Marie Timoney and John Macaulay from the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as three Calgary actors new to the ensemble.

OYR Assistant Director Ken Cameron is enthusiastic about the effects of this expanded cast.

"There’s a large number of people on stage, it makes quite an astonishing, different choreographic stage picture," he says. "It’s crowded up there. The simplest things, done by nine people are fantastic to watch, so the choreography is in some ways more streamlined and simpler, but strangely more effective."

Timoney is enjoying her sojourn in Calgary, but was surprised that more theatre in Canada is not like the Rabbit’s.

"The most interesting thing is that in Scotland, because the Rabbit is the big Canada connection, everybody thinks every theatre company in Canada is pushing the envelope, that they’re pushing the boundaries and… oh! It’s not true!" she says, laughing.

She is enthusiastic about the new skills she and Macaulay will take back to Scotland, in terms of movement techniques and the lightning-fast thought process that characterizes OYR

"They think so fast on their feet. Scottish people are actually a lot faster than English people in those terms, but compared to the Rabbit’s, forget it. We thought we were whiz kids until we came here!" she says. "But it’s been brilliant. I mean, sometimes it can be a bit frustrating because you’re playing catchy-uppy, but then you realize that you’re an awful lot faster than you were when you arrived and that by the time I leave, I will be even faster still."

But what exactly is wild theatre?

"Well, we’re still working on that," exclaims Cameron. "What is it that makes something wild? What is it that makes something theatre? What is it that makes something a piece of history?"

Timoney has her own theory on what makes a piece wild.

"Anything that has a vibrant or violent reaction, whether extreme love or extreme hate," she says. "If you go to the theatre and you come out feeling pretty much the same way as when you went in, nothing wild has taken place in front of you."

She continued by recounting the details of what may be the first documented incidence of wild theatre: a staging of the Eumenedies by Aescalus, in which he changed the traditional staging.

"They burst through Clytemnestra’s door, and obviously they were on their big boots, with huge masks, and they screamed out of the audience, instead of moving beautifully and synchronized," recounts Timoney.

According to first-century accounts of the original production, youths fainted, women miscarried and grown men collapsed.

"I’d say that was fairly wild," quips Timoney.

That’s what OYR and their guests are trying to capture in History of Wild Theatre.

"We want to take the audience on a wild ride… An entertaining, thought provoking wild ride," says Cameron.

Though writing for the show is still in progress, it’s certain that the finished play is going to capture all of those elements.

"I hesitate to suggest that there’s a history lesson going on, or that we wish to expand people’s awareness of the history of theatre, because really it’s a kind of useless field of knowledge," says Cameron laughing. "But it does allow you to find those things that have been unique or stand-outish or bizarre throughout history. It makes you realize what makes history vibrant and why it’s still here."

Timoney agrees.

"Everybody knows a wee bit about a different type of theatre, and when you get all those wee bits put together, you end up reasonably knowledgeable by the end of it, so that was just amazing," she says. "Every day there seems to be a new wee piece that was brought into the room. What is exciting about it is it does change every day and sometimes, a couple days down the line, something gets bumped and something else gets put into its place."

The History of Wild Theatre plays at the Big Secret Theatre March 28 to April 15. Previews are March 28-29, and all matinees are pay-what-you can. There is a $5 discount on the other shows with student ID.

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