Ever since the PuSh festival kicked off two weeks ago, I've been patiently waiting for this year's “what the fuck” moment to materialize. Last year it came in the form of an anal-fisting puppet massacre called Jerk. So far this year, nothing has managed to make me feel as uncomfortable as that. But now that I've seen Niall McNeill and Marcus Youssef's Peter Panties I can officially say that the moment has arrived.
I consider myself an open-minded patron of the arts—to call oneself 'a patron of the arts' is to declare just that—but here was one instance that I actually hated everything I was seeing. But not because the production value was lacking or because the performance failed as art, (my date happenned to be a dramatic arts graduate and she assured me that this play was brilliant). No, I was put off because of this reason: I could tell there was something important and thoughtful happenning, but it was all way over my head.
Imagine you are reading a map, only it's upside down, and there's no legend, and what you thought was Manitoba was actually Neverland and nobody there speaks your language. Do you stop and ask for directions? No, you forge on stubbornly, like you know what you're doing and you get angry because you know you're wrong. This sums up my experience with Peter Panties.
Touted as a re-imagining of Peter Pan, there were a few sign posts along the way (Tinkerbell, Hook, Wendy), but just when I thought I was getting it, *BAM*: incoherent dialogue, violent lighting and spastic musical onslaughts. After the show, my date assured me that I had just witnessed true art; “Don't you see?" she said, "It's the classic story of a man-boy doomed to perpetually stay young forever, but grappling with the consequences of adult urges. It wasn't supposed to make sense? Theatre's not all about coherence, and neither is the story of Peter Pan. Those actors were using all their physical resources to turn convention on its head. It was brilliant!"
not getting it category), this made me understand for the first time exactly what a jock in high school might feel when they pass the drama kids in the hall.
Theatre majors will no doubt get more kicks out of analyzing this play than they ever did with Waiting for Godot, but for people who haven't been out to live theatre in awhile: you might want to check out some of the other shows that the last week of the PuSh Festival has to offer.
Peter Panties plays at the Cultch until February 13. For more information on showtimes visit www.thecultch.com
Photos by Tim Matheson