THE HOLLOW: A CLOWN PLAY created and directed by Mike Kennard, co-created by the company, with Christian Laurin, Natalie Breton, Christel Bartelse, Suzette Araujo, Christina Sicoli and Christopher Sawchyn. Presented by Kennard and Laurin at Berkeley Downstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to April 9, Monday-Saturday 8 pm. $15-$30, Monday pwyc. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you like mayhem with your clowning, you'll have a raucous good time at The Hollow , a show that pits the red-noses against the deformed bouffons, society's cast-offs. An anti-war tale, it highlights the wealth of clowning talent we have in Toronto. This is a vivid, fun fairy tale, one not aimed at kids.
Let me state my bias right away. I love good clown, and the involvement of Mike Kennard (Mump of Mump and Smoot) as creator and director is a big plus. Here, with the creative help of a cast of 15, he's concocted a dark-edged fable filled with laughs and - as is the case with most clown works - audience participation.
The ruling Lebarians, led by a matriarchal family whose trademark is the carrots on their heads, have it in for the vanquished, maimed and scabrous Rabiccanno tribe; some of the imprisoned latter are regularly released from the dungeon to entertain the court. Even so, Lebarian Queen Andmoth and her granddaughter Tifulbeau hope to conclude a peace treaty with the enemy queen, while Andmoth's grandson Draziw only looks for vengeful retaliation and continued fighting.
You'll find references to George Bush in the militant Draziw and, throughout, a theme of war's hopelessness, as well as moments of unnecessary sentimentality.
But nothing detracts from the wonderful clowning bits in this two-act show. All the characters are carefully drawn and relate to each other in believable fashion.
There's lots of good work from the cast, especially Natalie Breton as both queens, the warmly ditzy, narcoleptic Andmoth and the limbless, coldly snakelike Rabiccanno; Christel Bartelse 's Tifulbeau, with a big heart and a ferocious overbite; Christian Laurin 's conniving Draziw; and Christopher Sawchyn's sycophantic Lebarian general. Even Mark Andrada's Tat, a servant who never utters a word, has tons of personality.
Campbell Manning 's looming, cavelike burlap set adds to the show's impressiveness, as does Michael Barber 's live soundscape, which the clowns regularly send up with clever ad libs.