Verbal Diarrhea, Actual Diarrhea
Acacia Hall (10433 – 83 avenue) August 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23
More information: gerardharrisdotcomistaken.com
An interview with Gerard Harris.
Describe your show in five words.
Brevity was never my strong
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
It’s 8500 words, more or less, of a fast-paced storytelling show about the dumb things we do for love, the smart stories we tell ourselves to get through life and the absolutely ingenious moments in which our wayward bowels can make a mess of any given situation and nice pair of trousers. That being said, it’s also just an excuse to get up and tell stories for an hour because that is the one thing I mostly love doing. Nobody’s objected thus far.
You say you were inspired by Jem Rolls’ performance 5 years ago. What in particular about that performance inspired you? And what was the drive behind creating Verbal Diarrhea, Actual Diarrhea?
I don’t think I realised that this format really existed before I saw Jem, let alone that it was open to being done by manic middle-aged British guys with a love for Canada. He got up and spoke for a very solid hour and told a long personal story about getting caught in a riot in an epic verse that deviated in so many directions, had so many sparkling moments, clever jokes and trenchant opinions that I left the show feeling like I’d finally found that thing I’d been looking for. I also love his shameless love for and manipulation of the English language, particularly when it seems to have gone right out of fashion back home to have a vocabulary and use it. I’m happy to say we’ve become friends now. He came to see me do the previous iteration of this show last year and said very nice things about it. Of course he had an hour to think up those nice things to say but I’ve decided to just accept it anyway. Quite frankly, I was just looking for a way to get up and tell more stories so I wrapped a set of them around this theme of pursuing love and shitting my pants, both of which I’ve wasted a significant amount of time on in my life. I’m afraid I was never abused by my father, my brother didn’t become pregnant or set fire to a meth lab, I wasn’t adopted by alcoholic and I never had a monkey as a kid – in other words I don’t have a huge significant story that defines a lot of my life, so I didn’t think I ‘deserved’ to have a long-form storytelling show. The irony is, I do have one now. The plan was to surreptitiously seed it into this show and then write a whole new show about it for next year. But given the nature of this thing, I never quite got round to making it work so the only seed that remains explicit is buried in this drunken tattoo of a title. But in the writing of it I have realised just how much stories can change their meaning over time.
From videos I’ve seen of you performing, you have quite a unique style of storytelling. What is your objective when you get up on stage to perform? How does your performance style contribute to that?
My objective is to get through it without…um…losing …er… the audience, myself or the story entirely because I am often distracted by thoughts. My style comes from several things: I used to think through my pen but now I think through speech, so it’s a way of figuring things out for myself. As a result, I tell stories as a way to find out what I really think about things and that can sometimes get in the way of telling the tale in a clear and straightforward manner. This show is different because there is an actual text which I have learned not to deviate too far from. Normally I don’t write anything down, I just have an outline in my head with a couple of prepared lines and figure out the rest on the fly. The stories in Verbal Diarrhea… have mostly been told on stage before in one form or another and most of them come from this semi-improvised style. I’m sad that time limits mean I have to deliver it more like a monologue but I find a friendly audience makes it feel just like the first time.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
If by any chance I overrun, I will be happy to continue the show in the lobby or, if need be, their individual homes and gardens.
Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney for repeatedly letting me back in without checking up on my background or political opinions and Matt Goldberg and the audiences at Confabulation in Montreal for giving me the space to get better at this. It’s by far the best storytelling show I’ve ever been involved in.
The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.