CLEAN IRENE & DIRTY MAXINE written and performed by Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry, directed by Karin Randoja. Presented by Independent Auntie at Artword Mainspace. August 7 at 5 pm, August 10 and 11 at 9:30 pm, August 14 at 6:30 pm, August 15 at 8 pm, August 16 at 6:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
a-b-c-d-e-f-g, these two gals are fun - you'll see. The gals are Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry , whose physical and verbal comedy Clean Irene & Dirty Maxine resembles an arch blend of Dr. Seuss and Edward Gorey.
It's a rhyming trip through the alphabet, complete with woefully humorous demises for its cast of obsessed, fatalistic women. The show not only teaches you the alphabet but, as in Gorey's wry verse, operates as an instructional manual - only the morals taught are warped, unconventional and often satiric.
I saw the first few "letters" at Rhubarb! 2002, and the combination of clever text and spot-on physical comedy was a delight. In fact, the piece just won a best-performance award at the Ottawa Fringe.
The show grew from one character, Clean Irene, that Anna wrote for a One Yellow Rabbit intensive in Calgary, explains Parry.
"We've kept the story and the style for the other figures, who include Arty Marty, Busy Lizzy and Trendy Wendy."
Chatterton was haunted by the idea of a woman who finds that her ex-lovers live physically in her body, and she coupled that notion with the invented Irene's obsession with hygiene; Irene finally cracks when she finds smudges of those lovers all over her.
"We continued in that vein, making an absurd idea into a physical reality for characters who go to extremes or are obsessed with some idea," says Parry. "It was only later that we thought to link the characters through the letters of the alphabet."
Is it by chance, then, that they're teaching at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People? Maybe. But this show isn't for kids.
Singer/songwriter/performance poet Parry and playwright/comic Chatterton have collaborated as writers and actors for the past 10 years, memorably in The Former Republic Of Poetry. Some of their previous work, including a gig with a children's company where the scripts frequently rhymed, prepared them to write a quick-moving, playful piece with specific rhythms and internal rhymes.
The show's movement, based on teen girls' rituals and physical games, is driven by "a heightened, rhythmic, skipping playground style," says Parry.
"We're pretty sweaty campers by the end."