Friday, May 1, 2009

Hardsell

I have to say off the top that I ADORE Rick Miller. He's incredibly nice, insanely talented and very smart. His previous show, Bigger Than Jesus, is one of my favourite shows of all time. So I was predisposed to like this show. And I did. But don't walk in expecting it to be anything like Bigger Than Jesus or MacHomer. This is a vastly risker show.

I was sold on it from the pre-show music. As a swing dancer, I loved it and hearing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's I Wanna Be Like You scored extra bonus points. The music during the show is great too. The man can move!

Moving on from the superficial, the show is a huge risk because our master of ceremonies, the mad, sad, Vaudevillian clown Arnie, is hard to like. It's a huge risk for a performer to make himself unlikeable, but Rick does it with aplomb. Bitter and cynical, his soul destroyed, he guides us through his life and that of his twin brother, Rick Miller.

Every time we think we get a glimpse of the real Arnie, he tells us what he just told us was from a show he has done. Arnie represents the soul of the performer, the part married to the stage, the part that paints a smile on even as they're dying inside.Using this construct, Rick gets us to look at the messages we're being inundated with and how we're being manipulated in different ways. The ideas come out at random, much like the jungle of ideas and images we navigate in everyday life.

Despite the dark themes, it's a fast paced, entertaining show. I'm still not sure what to make of the ending, but Rick told me after that was the point. Theatre as experience, much like bluemouth inc's work. When looking at it this way, I thought of the parallels to advertising being an emotion feeder.

The final image, no matter how you interpret it, is stunningly beautiful, a counterpoint to much of the ugliness that has gone before. It's a show I'd like to see again as it struck me like an onion, its layers waiting to be revealed.

One other thing struck me. Arnie's voice sounded like the God voice in Bigger Than Jesus. Tying together heaven and hell adds extra resonance to the humanist ideas Rick is presenting.

If you like thought-provoking theatre, this show is a must-see.

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