Burning Bluebeard- Edmonton Actor’s Theatre- Edmonton

Fairy_Eddie-e1441226946381Written  by Jay Torrence

Directed by Dave Horak

Playing at the Roxy on Gateway from December 3rd-13th

When the Roxy Theatre was gutted by what CBC called “a tough ol’ fire” last winter, the entire Edmonton theatre community felt the devastating effects of losing the long-treasured bijoux theatre, a local landmark and home to Theatre Network’s trailblazing artistic team.

Now, nearly one year later, Edmonton Actor’s Theatre offers catharsis for the theatre community at the new digs, The Roxy on Gateway. Based on the true story of the Iroquois Theatre which burnt down in Chicago in 1903, claiming the lives of some 600 audience members, Burning Bluebeard is a veritable advent calendar of theatrical delights as 6 clowns emerge from the smouldering wreckage to share their Christmas Pantomime with their (living!) audience.

Within the slightly indulgent metatheatrical device of “a play about a play within a play”, our clowns (one of whom is really a stage manager, but a natural clown nonetheless) wake from their ash-dusted slumber to reenact the Christmas Panto they were all so desperate to share with the Iroquois Theatre Audience. They hope that,with the help of The Faery Queen, everyone in the building will live to share the happy ending their story was meant to have.

Showmanship is at the heart of this energetic and muscular production which takes full advantage of a cast whose talents in classic vaudeville and physical comedy litter the action. Directed by the ever-surprising Dave Horak, the impactful visual and atmospheric effects of the production pair perfectly with the paradoxical journey of the characters as, in true clown fashion, they poke fun at the event which has obviously traumatized them.

It’s difficult to describe a linear plot line as we see snippets of each clown’s character and interweave the story of Bluebeard with the story of the fire, but that’s the beauty of this engagingly haphazard way of storytelling. Its variety-show style jumps from joke to joke, “bit” to satisfying “bit”, taking us on a zany emotional rollercoaster and encouraging us to laugh at some particularly gruesome puns and begging the question- why do we do that, and is it an acceptable  form of healing to indulge our twisted sense of humour in retrospect?

Anyone from the theatre community will enjoy the “in-jokes” that all theatre-folk instantly recognize. I’ve heard whisperings that a reclaimed wall from the old Roxy is embedded in the set; a heartening nod to the creativity that will continue, whatever the obstacles,  to challenge and delight performers and audiences alike wherever the new home may be.

The play opens with a heart-felt homage to the empty theatre space- a building where words saturate the very walls, the seats, the floors, and makes the air thick with stories of long ago and those yet to be told. There was a palpable sense of phoenix-like determination as the audience silently shared our memories of the past and hopes for the future of our own artistic community.

Those who aren’t necessarily as “thespy”as the audience was on opening night will find this delightful and captivating romp just as enjoyable. The cast are genuine in their desire to make us laugh and cry with them, to share in a wonderful evening of theatre that’s a bit different (and a lot more fun) than your average Christmas story. My advice would be sit in the middle if you can (sight lines from the sides can be obstructed at times by the choreography) and just enjoy this enchanting, sweet, hilarious show.

Burning Bluebeard runs at The Roxy on Gateway from December 3rd to 13th, tickets online at theatrenetwork.ca or on the door. 

2 thoughts on “Burning Bluebeard- Edmonton Actor’s Theatre- Edmonton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s