THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF by Kathleen Phillips (with the company), directed by Phillips. Presented by Cow Over Moon Children's Theatre at Palmerston Library (560 Palmerston). July 6 at 7 pm, July 7 at 6:30 pm, July 8 and 14 at 11 am, July 9 at 2:45 pm, July 11 at 12:45 pm, July 12 at 2:30 pm, July 15 at 5:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Audiences at comedy clubs can be pretty tough, but they're nothing compared to a group of restless kids.
"Oh yeah, they let you know when they don't want to listen," says Kathleen Phillips , writer/director of Three Billy Goats Gruff , an irreverent take on the tale of the goats, the bridge and the nasty troll.
Phillips is best known as a Tim Sims Encouragement Fund Award-nominated character comic. But she and some of the city's other edgy alternative comics (like Katie Crown and Terrance Balazo ) are also part of Cow Over Moon Children's Theatre, a Mississauga-based company that specializes in bringing a fresh improv feel to cherished kids' classics.
"Children tend to have this absurd and abstract sense of humour," says Phillips. "Which is exactly the sort of comedy that comes out of improv."
In fact, most Cow Over Moon shows aren't fully scripted, but instead allow for audience suggestions and interaction. When a character's gone from the stage for a while, for instance, an audience member gets to provide a recap when they return.
"Some of the kids' call-outs are so kooky that it really contributes to the show's vibe," she says, adding that the work with Cow Over Moon has affected her comedy.
"Sometimes a remark or situation will feed into something I can use for a monologue or character later on," says Phillips, who performs at rooms like the Joke Club, Righteous Wednesdays and the upcoming Laugh Sabbath.
The troupe has a number of successful shows under its belt, but Billy Goats marks its downtown debut.
"Kids in the suburbs don't have a lot of what kids in Toronto do," explains Phillips. When I ask if commuting is a problem, she moans. "Yeah, it's always an issue. But we've negotiated things like bus tickets now."
As for the current show, which features songs written by Phillips and Death from Above 1979's Sebastien Grainger (adding a bit more indie cred), the plot features a big bad business troll who wields bad contracts and swindles people out of land and sun.
Is there an anti-corporation message in there?
"Maybe a little bit," laughs Phillips. "But we don't focus on morals too much."