NextFest 2015: Pinniped and Other Poems

I’m the first to admit that I’m not good at understanding plays that are more conceptual and fantastical. But if absurdist plays are your jam, check out Pinniped and Other Poems, presented at Campus St. Jean as part of NextFest 2015.

The NextFest production of Pinniped and Other Poems, is essentially a workshop production of what will become a 75-minute piece at this year’s Fringe Festival, as Director Philip Geller explained. At NextFest, the show runs about 60 minutes, or 3/4 of what it will run at Fringe.

Pinniped and Other Poems by Skye Hyndman focuses around J. R. Morse, a man who is turning into a walrus and about to accept an award for a book of poetry he didn’t write. The play features three actors playing J.R. at various stages of his life (and evolution into a walrus) and a lady who is part bird and seemingly either his muse or the true author of the poems. Throughout the play, we watch J.R. think out loud to himself at various points in his life and observe his interactions with the bird-lady.

While I was overwhelmed with this particular play, here’s the larger ideas that I took away from it:

  • As we get older, we become more of what we are, which, in Pinniped and Other Poems is shown by J.R. becoming more and more walrus-like as he ages. Conversely, the bird-lady, appeared to become more and more human as time passed.
  • The inescapable feeling of being trapped, dragged down, and tied to a particular destiny.
  • If you subscribe to the idea of muses, it also brought up thoughts about writers having a love/hate relationship with their muse: love of the inspiration, hate because of the sense that the work is not their own. Or, love for the final product, but the feeling that the work didn’t really come from them and it’s not their own.
  • Who are you on the inside (intellectual, observant), vs. who you are on the outside (an “animal” – for J.R., a walrus, but also the idea of being animalistic or wild when maybe that isn’t your true nature).

But that’s just what the play made me think about. Likely every audience member is going to take something different from Pinniped and Other Poems because it’s so multi-faceted and jumps between ideas and images.

PS – check out the nxtfst Podcast’s episode 5, which includes an interview with the director of Pinniped and Other Poems, Phillip Geller.

Pinniped and Other Poems plays two more times during NextFest 2015: June 13 and 14 at 6:30 p.m. both days. The play will also return during the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in August.

Tickets are $10 per show, $18 for a day pass or $40 for a festival pass and can be bought by phoning the Theatre Network box office (780.453.2440) Monday – Friday, noon – 5:00 p.m. and in-person at Campus St. Jean 1 hour before the performance. Day and festival passes can be bought online or in person through Tix on the Square.

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