ROUGH HOUSE created and performed by Andy Massingham, directed by Brian Quirt. Presented by Nightswimming at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to January 16, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $10-$15. 416-538-0988. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It's not often that an actor's fellow players are a naked light bulb, a chair and a small bowl. But those are Andy Massingham's performing partners and sometimes his character's adversaries in the entertaining Rough House , a non-verbal exploration of light, gravity and physical comedy.
There's no plot here, just a series of scenes in which Massingham - fluid body and face put to constant use - draws on clown and mime to shave, ride a bike, eat and do other daily activities.
But there's nothing ordinary about the action, which, because of the sharpness of the performance and the inventive lighting design by Rebecca Picherack and Michelle Ramsay , becomes very rich.
Sparring with the "talking" light bulb, weightlifting the personality-rich chair, making the bowl into various pieces of sports equipment, Massingham turns into an everyman figure who, attempting to assert his will against the outside world, is constantly at odds with gravity. The results, both pratfalls and moments of extraordinary balance, are equally measured.
Lighting plays a key role in the hour-long show, from the opening image of Massingham metamorphosing from a flowing shadow behind a white wall to a firm and sturdy person in front of it.
That instant transformation from one state to another, from the intangibility of shadow to the three-dimensional solidity of an object, is a token of the alluring charm of Rough House, directed with a playful, whimsical touch by Brian Quirt .
As images move from one state to another, the lighting often creates several intersecting realities. At one point, we watch two versions of Massingham, one flesh and blood, the other a silhouetted cut-out reflected on the white wall, his head just north of his knees and clearly confused about not being on top of his neck.
The last moments, a magical shadow ride for chair, light bulb and man, capture the cleverness of the show in miniature, leaving the audience absolutely still with wonder.
From Rough House's comic pratfalls to Trout Stanley's eccentrics and Little Dragon's kicks, there's lots to enjoy in T.O. theatres