Martin Dockery, photo by Bill Kennedy
(Link takes you to their fringe page to buy tickets.
I walked out of this show thinking, "what the hell did I just see?"
Which I suspect is not a bad thing when watching bouffon.
We start out by meeting the witches from Macbeth, who have written a first draft of the play and have kidnapped William Shakespeare to polish it up and bring it to our world. Turns out they're on God's bad side and they hope by showing God that they now understand humanity things will get better for them.
From there, the show goes into sexual innuendo, fart jokes, repeated mentions of a desire for gore (grateful that we didn't have to see it) and a lot of pawing over young William - who shows he has acting chops when they actually leave him alone to do a scene. We run through the story while they witches fight amongst each other, Will tries to escape, and the audience laughs - a lot.
Two of the witches are performed by men and the woman is portraying the crone. I'm sure there's a solid liturgical reason for that and it does add a bit of power when a man dressed with prominent boobs and ass talks about how women are viewed for their attractiveness but it did bother me that this show centering female characters has only one woman in the cast.
This show was a ton of fun. I just would have liked a little more cohesion. The program talks about how bouffons like "themes that involve the very essence of society in its social complexity." I experienced very little of that. I do know that this show had to do some drastic cuts the last couple of days for time so I bet the stuff I was looking for is on the cutting room floor.
If you like bouffon, this show's for you. If you like bizarre takes on Shakespeare, this show is also for you. If you like raunchy weirdness, this show is definitely for you.
I have to state up front that I'm extremely biased when it comes to Martin Dockery. When Martin first did the Toronto Fringe with his show Wanderlust (2009!), I was smitten. I have memories of a late night discussion outside Central Tech, lending an ear walking him to his billet in London, having lunch with him and his lovely (now) wife on a long gone restaurant on Baldwin St, and many nights in the beer tent.
I unashamedly love this man.
He's a master storyteller who has always done great work but this piece tops them all. The writing is stronger, something I didn't even know was possible. He's always been good at the large stories but this time he throws in a couple short offshoots that change the rhythm and allows the audience to catch their breath.
Martin's trademark is fast-talking performance and that hasn't changed. However, this a calmer, more grounded, more open performer. I really noticed him making direct eye contact with as much of the audience as he can see and coming down to the audience level a few times, creating an intimacy I haven't seen from him before. This suits the stories he tells, two of which are intensely personal while the third gives perspective. The third story gave me particular resonance, especially considering my personal history with the venue.
If the rest of this run doesn't sell out, it will be a crime. It's not often you get to see someone at the top of his game the way this show showcases Martin. I don't want to say much more because I would like you to discover the stories on their own terms, so I'll leave you with the program description:
Dockery tells the true story of looking for meaning in the mysterious connection between love and death. Equally comical and heartbreaking, Delirium takes us from a Toronto airport to the Nevada desert, and from a Brooklyn apartment to the Mexican redoubt of the Monarch Butterfly, telling a story of both falling in love and falling apart.