On the Fringe #1
Written by Denyse Terry
PLAY: Death Married My Daughter
COMPANY: Play it Again Productions
DETAILS: Created and performed by Nina Gilmour, Danya Buonstella
Directed by Michele Smith
SCHEDULE: Thurs, July 18 6:00pm, Sat, July 20 12:30pm, Sun, July 21 8:00pm, Wed, July 24 9:30pm, Thurs, July 25 7:00pm, Sat, July 27 4:00pm, Sun, July 28 2:00pm
One morning last year, just outside Paris, in a dorm room at the prestigious clown school, École Philippe Gaulier, Nina Gilmour woke up with an idea. Quick to share it with fellow student and long-time friend Danya Buonstella, the two took that idea home to Toronto and Michele Smith. Would it work? Could it work? Drawing heavily upon their improv training, the three met day and night to expand and develop their seriously comedic play, Death Married My Daughter.
The idea that spawned the theme that travelled home to hatch their production? Two of Shakespeare’s characters, Ophelia and Desdemona, reimagined through Bouffon, in order to denounce gender stereotypes and ‘take the piss’ out of society. On trial here is ‘Man’. Get ready to laugh as they poke fun at some of our more flawed social structures. Along the way, Death Married My Daughter puts some classical touches on modern themes and modern touches on classical themes.
A primer: Bouffon, originally conceived during the French Renaissance and recoined by Jacques Lecoq in the 60s is a performance style that has mockery at its core. The Bouffon were the ‘ugly people’ banished to the swamps, only let out during festivals to entertain royalty, AKA the beautiful people (this time around that’s you dear Fringer).
Even via Skype, Gilmour comes across energetically and enthusiastic, “Bouffon really spoke to me -it kind of exploded all our minds! It is still so relevant today.” All three have studied under Gaulier and enjoy the release clowning offers. Says Gilmour, “Bouffon is really needed right now with all the negative things that are going on in the world.”
In this time-travelling, role switching carnation, speaking in both classical and contemporary dialogue, Desdemona and Ophelia rise from the swamps to take a swipe at politics, pop-culture, and gender stereotyping. Ophelia, you may recall, was the potential wife of Hamlet. In that play, Shakespeare portrayed both of them as a bit nuts, though Hamlet’s quackery was deemed more socially acceptable for, as a male, he was given far more intellectual curiosities to jam up his synapses. Ophelia wore her madness more blatantly, more hysterically, more…female. In Shakespeare’s play Othello, Desdemona is bracingly strong willed, loving her husband Othello without restraint. Which was also a problem. A female without restraint, nay, with clarity of purpose, was also a dangerous thing. Her husband called her a whore right before he murdered her.
“Are you sure this is a comedy?” I ask Gilmour. She laughs through the phone. “It is definitely hysterically funny! It’s definitely biting, too. But we keep it light and comical.” They employ Bouffon, “…at its most charming…it’s meant to provoke thought, to give people something to think about and hopefully inspire change…we paint a broad picture of how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. Michele Smith (from Smith-Gilmour Theatre Company) is a great director! She makes sure we stay on track.”
For 60 minutes these two recent graduates, Gilmour and Buonstella, will have you in their tracks. Yes it’s social criticism –staged just for your delight.
And speaking of delight, a fine establishment in town hosted our conversation. Can you tell from the picture where we were? This one’s easy! Get it right and you and a friend are in to see Death Married My Daughter. Send your guess and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org
On The Fringe is written by Denyse Terry
Denyse is a local freelance writer.
A Fringe volunteer for the past 5 years, she has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2011.
Her short story ‘Boom’ has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize: