Bella Culpa by A Little Bit Off (Amica Hunter and David Cantor)
August 12, 15, 16, 18 – 21 at the Westbury Theatre
An interview with Amica Hunter.
Describe your show in five words.
Slapstick Chaos in Edwardian Manor
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
Two peculiar and endearing servants in an Edwardian Manor race around trying to get all the chores done before the guests arrive for dinner. They are combating an unmanageable number of metal buckets, and some uninvited furry friends, as well as their own wild imaginations. Like Downton Abbey meets Laurel and Hardy.
Bella Culpa, like your other shows, is vaudeville-inspired. What do you love about this performance style?
Our particular flavor of vaudeville, is physical comedy in which we are the subject of the humor. Unlike a lot of modern stand up, or certain historical vaudeville acts, which have the comedic finger pointing at “others,” we find that this style of performance really connects and uplifts people, and has audience members coming into the theater as individuals, and leaving as a community. But also, let’s face it, who has not been smitten with the on screen antics of the silent film era, of Chaplin, and Keaton, and Lloyd? There is a nostalgic sense of simplicity and charm to these older acts that you just don’t see much today.
The last show you brought to Edmonton, Beau & Aero, had no dialogue. Is Bella Culpa similar in this way? If so, what is it that you like about performing shows without dialogue?
Bella Culpa has a bit more dialogue than Beau & Aero, but it still has hardly any at all. One of our clown instructors used to tell us that clowns don’t speak not because they CAN’T, but because they exist in that space where there is nothing left to say. This is an important distinction. Our work is very much about relationship, so a lot of the interactions between the characters, like in life, are inferred through physical cues. When you strip away the dialogue, the honesty of the interactions really comes through more clearly. As humans, our experiences are primarily physical long before we learn to speak. In this way, physical comedy has a power to penetrate more deeply into what it is to be human. There is something about using the physical form to tell stories and create humor that feels more relatable than words alone.
How did you go about creating Bella Culpa?
Well, starting last November, we rented a lot of hours at a rehearsal space, bought a bunch of props, and locked in that room day after day, with a notebook and a video camera. We slowly went insane together, often laying on the floor in despair, creating far too much material that was not polished at all… Our problem has always been TOO MANY ideas, not too few. It’s weeding them out and letting go that is the hard part. We set an initial performance date, and then slashed away everything that wasn’t quite working. everything we worked on alone in the space gets thrown out the window when we are in front of an audience – building clown material without onlookers feels like floating in the black vacuum of space. After a few trial performances of our early material, we took what we had to an artist residency in Bellingham, WA, where we tightened everything up, slapped on an ending, incorporated some outsider feedback, and polished polished polished – Just in time for fringe tour!
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
We are very proud of this show – it has a lot of personality, play, and madness in it, and we feel it really reflects our creation process. So take a risk on us! We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.