by Lea Movelle
Halfhandsome, a local production company, is trying something different to welcome 2017. It’s theatre by young adults for their peers and the group’s goal is to breathe life into millennial theatre in St. John’s. Their show, Almost Baymous, is a revue of the infamous 2016. From their young and underrepresented perspectives, the 20-somethings behind the show explore events and circumstances that shaped the year gone by. They expect the style, a satirical approach with an abundance of comedic flair, will resonate with the area’s frustrated millennial generation.
The Muse spoke with the show’s Director Andrew Tremblett who revealed a sneak peak: “It’s risqué. It’s goal is to relate to young Newfoundlanders and bring up shit that we haven’t seen on stage, or have never seen joked about for that matter. We talk about texting someone you are attracted to, George Street (as a Bob Dylan song), VLTs and gambling addictions or alcohol issues. We also have stuff that comments on body image, or day-to-day relationships, kids’ entertainers, and how PC culture has changed the way we date or meet people at bars. We have a sketch based on the incident at MUN when they royally effed up a safety issue. We talk about taxi issues in the city. We deal with how hard it is to get a job when nobody seems to be interested in hiring you, and explore the divide between us and our parents, even when they are always supportive. We started out talking about what bothered us. And this is what we got from those conversations. We are young people talking to young people —we’re not telling them anything they don’t know and we aren’t preaching. We’re just showing relatable content and we’re hoping people will enjoy it and in turn talk about it, which is why it is important not to shy away from touchy issues.”
The show’s style is modeled after theatre that Tremblett encountered while attending a training program with The Second City, a Chicago-based improvisational comedy project known for training, among others, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, and Mike Myers. “I’d never seen anything like it before. Twenty year olds performing in front of crowds of other twenty year olds. When I came back here, the whole liberal budget thing happened and I thought that the style would be perfect for town. Young people in St. John’s don’t really have a distinct voice when it comes to theatre or even comedy.
We asked Tremblett why he thinks young theatre is particularly important in these austere times. He said, “I just think people are pissed off. As a young Newfoundlander and Labradorian, it’d be easier to find a job or more opportunities in a place like Montreal or Vancouver. It’s honestly not Dwight’s fault; he was just the poor sucker to get the position. But at the same time, the money situation doesn’t make this an easy place to live. Young people here don’t have a political voice either. And we have music, like Hey Rosetta!, stand-up comedians, like Matt Wright and Ryan Dillion, but we don’t have much theatre.
There were 10 people involved in writing Almost Baymous —joining Tremblett in the scripting process were: Cathy Fagan, David Feehan, Jana Gillis, Allison Kelly, Evan Mercer, Stuart Simpson, Arn Smit, Catherine Vielguth, and editor Riley Harnett. The scenes will be brought to life by six of the projects writers: Feehan, Gillis, Simpson, Mercer, Smit, and Vielguth. Russell Cochrane will take care of stage management, and Christian Davis is lending a hand with video work.
When asked about his favorite scene, Tremblett replied: “they are all good. The writers did a great job writing about what was on their minds. We have a runner, or a series of short sketches, following two guys who work at a Marie’s Mini Mart. They’re trying to get tickets to a show at Factory to see a Great Big Sea cover band called Big Jesus Pond.”
The show premieres 11 January 2017 and runs for four consecutive nights, at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in the basement of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, which, by the way, is so close to campus you can crawl there. Tickets can be purchased online at artsandculturecentre.com or through telephone at (709) 729 3900. With an audience of broke and frugal students in mind, tickets are priced at just 10 dollars each. When Halfhandsome’s new style catches on, capturing the hearts and minds of 20-somethings city wide, won’t you have wanted to be there from the very beginning?
While it’s unrealistic to count on a hip young theatre scene to bring back our jobs and warm this rock that we live upon at the mercy of the North Atlantic, Almost Baymous and future projects of its kind can get us thinking about the issues of our day, and laughing through our shared and wind-chilled pain.
Image Credit: Riley Harnett