Jacquie P.A. Thomas
Theatre Gargantua is large not just in the themes it tackles but also in the time it takes to develop a show.
The artist-driven company has spent 16 years developing only seven shows, including The Trials, Raging Dreams - Into The Visceral and e-DENTITY. In each case, the company reworked, honed and developed a piece with various creators until it was just right.
The same's true for the troupe's latest, Fibber, which opens tonight (Thursday, October 2).
The process invariably takes several years, a rare luxury in English-Canadian theatre and one appreciated by artistic director Jacquie P.A. Thomas.
"Working this way means that we're not cheating anyone: the audience, the artists or the material," she says at the end of a long rehearsal day. "It gives time for each artist involved in the process - actor, musician, designer - to contribute toward a work's composition and eventually own it.
"That's a problem with working on a show for only three weeks. How can you polish or even understand a piece in such a short time? It's like presenting a baby to an audience. You can't know what it's going to be when it grows up."
Fibber, which began life two summers ago, came from research that playwright/performer Michael Spence did for the group's earlier production, (nod).
"Research showed that depressed people were more likely than others to take responsibility for things that went poorly," recalls Thomas.
"The suggestion was that it's healthier for the body and the mind to employ denial in everyday life.
"That was our jumping-off point to work on a piece about the health benefits of employing denials and untruths, the built-in protection we have in order to make the unbearable bearable."
Since 2006, Fibber has had a Toronto workshop and various exploratory incarnations in and around Picton, on what Thomas calls an artistic expedition.
In the show, performers interact with animated projections and continue the physical theatre that's as important to a Gargantua production as text and music.
"Our set includes hundreds of metres of hand-knotted rope," says Thomas. "The actors climb on it. It's exhausting for them, but that tiredness informs a work that's playful and funny.
"Because of the staging, the production works vertically as well as horizontally. It's a visual treat to get the actors out of the usual performing space."