Hello! I’m Hayley Moorhouse – a University student/performer/playwright/occasional reviewer, hijacking Jenna’s blog (temporarily) to tell you about the Canoe Festival. If you want to see more of my writing, check out the Skirts a Fire Festival in March, or steal my laptop.
Hayley’s top 5 tips for seeing Fortuitous Endings at the Canoe Festival:
- Remember, it’s not the ballet.
- Remember, it isn’t a play.
- If you don’t have much confidence in your throwing arm, sit closer to the front.
- If you are the type to get cringe-y watching performers wield sharp knives with seemingly reckless abandon, sit closer to the back.
- Just loosen up already. It’s more fun that way.
“Fortuitous” means “happening by accident or chance rather than design”. Sometimes this chance is a lucky break. Sometimes it leaves you utterly blindsided. You’ll experience both in Toy Guns Dance Theatre’s latest offering.
Sorry for the vocabulary lesson, but the notion of randomness is the central connecting factor for this series of expressive dance vignettes. So it’s important. Besides, it can be easy to forget the title of what you’re seeing at the Westbury Theatre this week. It’s full name, after all, is Fortuitous Endings (What To Do When You Wake Up Drunk In A BBQ Cover In Your Neighbour’s Backyard).
Sound sort of familiar? Think back to this summer’s Fringe Festival. No doubt you heard a friend rave about another one of two Toy Guns shows with similarly lengthy monikers: “I think maybe it’s got something to do with wine, sex, and pharmaceutical drugs? And there’s lots of pillows!”
Director/Choreographer Jake W. Hastey’s plucky dance theatre company only surfaced on the Edmonton arts scene very recently, but it did so in a big way. Having missed both shows at the Fringe, I was excited to see what all the hype was about. And I’m happy to report I did not walk away disappointed.
Fortuitous Endings is all about the sticky spots in relationships, and trying to find clarity hidden behind deceit, ego, jealousy, and all that other muck that comes with love. Hastey’s choreography is about as varied as it can get: one minute you’re spellbound by a highly athletic solo, and the next it’s like you’re at your cousin’s wedding, and Aunt Betty is trying to get you to join her tipsy conga line. But this is what makes the show feel so accessible, and so alive to its time. After all, it’s dance theatre, and the heightened emotions of the characters are never sacrificed in the name of technical precision. As you can read in the playbill, Hastey was deeply concerned with creating a movement language that, while intricate and appealing, was somehow innately decipherable to the average audience member.
So yes, it’s a bit messy (literally, stage hands were out with shovels cleaning up the after math of the final number), but adorably so. Populated by a colorful, immediately likeable cast – whose individual characters slowly become clearer and clearer as we witness brief snippets of their (mostly) romantic entanglements – Fortuitous Endings happily dives headfirst into the quirky, the awkward, the painful, and the weirdly, inexplicably joyous. Every possible point of contact is explored, both onstage and during the cast’s several uproarious romps into the audience. All told, it’s an exhaustive, exuberant exploration of just how deeply we can reach each other if we only give ourselves the chance.
The stakes feel considerably higher in the second act (yes, it’s got 2 acts, Tix on the Square is lying to you when it says that it’s only 80 minutes), but one can’t help but get the feeling that all of these disconnected scenes aren’t really leading to any sort of epiphany or climax. True, you come to recognize the patterns of the individual performers as the evening goes on, and there are some very clever call-backs to early scenes inserted nearer to the end (including one particularly funny incident involving the unfortunately violent death of a balloon animal), but this does not quite bridge the wide gap between pieces. Here’s where the element of chance comes in. It tries to shift our perspective and make us understand that we are meant to see fragmented glimpses of the lives of oddly familiar strangers, not to follow any sort of story arc. For some, this lack of psychological continuity might be frustrating – if it is, then you know it’s time to remember tip #5: loosen up, and have fun! Because if there’s one thing Fortuitous Endings definitely is, it’s fun.
A particularly sparking moment arose in the calm following a busy storm of activity. Socks, rubber balls and stuffed animals littered the stage (go see it, I’m not going to tell you why), and tensions were high. Then musical guest Must Be Tuesday – who’s dry, tongue-in-cheek lyrics captured the tone of the show superbly – stepped out onto the stage and serenaded us while the cast cleaned up. Armed with a laundry hamper each, the performers paraded through the audience and breezed around the playing space, teasing and tossing and taking care not to miss anything. It was a simple moment, in which the complexities of romance melted away and the 9 characters came together for a common purpose. And if that’s not clarity, what is?
Tickets and Information can be found by visiting the Canoe Festival Website.
Fortuitous Endings has two remaining shows:
January 30 @ 7:00 pm
January 31 @ 7:00 pm
All performances take place in the Westbury Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns.