Actor Andrew Musselman is boarding Catalpa.
A 19th-century whaling vessel sails on a strange mission.
Nope, it's not Moby Dick, but rather Donal O'Kelly's Catalpa, a surreal yet historically based story.
In 1875, George Antony was hired to captain the whaling ship Catalpa; his goal wasn't fishing, though, but rather jailbreak. Hired by a group of Irish republican expats, he was to sail halfway around the world to Australia and rescue six Fenian prisoners.
O'Kelly's given the story a frame in which a screenwriter enacts, for his own benefit, the rejected script based on the tale.
"The writer, Matthew Kidd, is a failure himself, like the Fenian movement and its fight against British control in Ireland," says actor Andrew Musselman, who first performed the show in London six year ago. Since then it's toured Canada and won several prizes.
"The Catalpa incident was a glittering triumph in an ultimately flawed plan. I'm intrigued by its story of promise, hope and optimism told by someone - Kidd - who's also failed. There's a childlike playing around in the telling that helps him reaffirm his belief in the script and his own life."
Musselman has his hands full creating nearly 20 characters as well as giving us a sense of life at sea and the escape from Australia.
"It's like staging a one-man epic," he smiles. "I remember, when I was rehearsing Stones In His Pockets with director Geoffrey Whynot, I was worried about keeping my various characters clear and distinct.
"But then I realized that both on-stage and offstage we do that all the time. We tell a story that involves several speakers and, as long as the listener's engaged, don't worry about having the people too big or embellishing on details."
And does the multi-character storytelling work?
"Early in the show, Kidd becomes a seabird who invites the audience and the distressed screenwriter to take wing and go on a journey with him. The biggest compliment I get after the show is viewers telling me they felt like they'd seen the entire movie."
Presented by Blood in the Alley and led by Irish director Geoff Gould, Catalpa goes to Ireland after its run here.
Peters power on
It's always a thrill to see comics take their act to that fabled next level. That's happened to the sketch comedians Approximately 3 Peters, the cleverly named troupe that consists of writer/performers Peter Gal, Pete Hill and Ian MacIntyre.
Although a few sketches work beautifully as stand-alones, the trio specializes in fully realized sketch shows. There's a satisfying dramatic arc to their latest, The Complete 3rd Season, which they've set up as a live DVD, complete with menu, commentary track and even post-show DVD review by some geeky dude at Ain't It Cool News.
Their best material captures the foibles and victories of 20-something straight urban male life. Hill and MacIntyre play two guys who leave a club and relieve themselves in an alley - only to be reprimanded by Gal's police officer, who's got some original ideas about what's acceptable. MacIntyre scores in a hilarious rant about accepting the fact that he'll never be able to grow a decent beard. And one of the show's highlights is a chase scene that exploits every action film cliché.
Director Andrew Currie is likely responsible for the show's quick rhythms and theatricality. Not everything works, but the team knows how to make self-referentiality not just smart but actually funny.
The show continues every Saturday in September at the Bad Dog. See Comedy Listings.
Trust Nightswimming to turn a standard performance into an experimental theatrical journey.
The company's latest is Blue Note, created by director Brian Quirt and writer Martin Julien, in which a vocal ensemble discovers that it's one singer short to perform a choral piece. Over the course of the show, we learn something about each of the seven singers and realize that the whole story can't be told without finding that final voice.
The free, multidisciplinary work-in- progress is the first live piece presented in the York Quay Centre's Main Gallery. This collaboration between actors, musicians and architects blends visual art and performance.
The interactive performance space is lit and designed by PLANT Architect Inc., and the cast includes Neema Bickersteth, Jay Bowen, Christine Brubaker, Steven Gallagher, Kate Hennig, John Millard and Jane Miller.
Not only can the audience attend the 7 pm performance, but they can also catch the show's open workshop rehearsals from noon daily.