The perfect show, here it is:
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” plays as a man in a bear suit performs a halfhearted routine. This grows old quick, as the dancer runs out of energy. He then removes the mask, revealing the charismatic, ugly head of Malcolm Whittaker, who explains that what you just saw constitutes the best theatre show ever— in his opinion, at least, except you also get free beer— an usher then hands me a beer. 10/10.
Whittaker is the audacious mind behind ‘Jumping the Shark Fantastic,’ the latest in Pica’s Fringe program, RECKLESS ACTS. What began as a joke quickly gained traction as people responded via an online questionnaire or in person to the question: what constitutes the best theatre show ever? To varying degrees of abstraction, the respondent’s wishes were fulfilled by a vaguely familiar cast of young local actors. The players moved from point to point in an extended tableau as each perfect show required. I was struck first by the strict economy of representation, second by the varied strata of detritus building onstage, and third by a terrible instance of deja vu sighting a particular arrangement: ‘player x is at this angle and distance to player y, who is this far upstage from player z etc.’
Their talent and enthusiasm was obvious, especially considering the taxing dynamic of a show devised from a questionnaire & rehearsed in a matter of days; it would be interesting, however to see how the concept fares in the hands of more experienced collaborators & improvisors. The show certainly had a loose, improvisational feel though moments of synchronicity shone through as occasions where the idea was in service of the show, and not vice-versa – often a weakness of theatre in this vein. By its nature Jumping the Shark Fantastic is a pastiche of styles and themes, even allowing for a brief standup interval at the midpoint. Perfect shows ranged from the childishly mundane to the obnoxiously meta, from surreal memetic dreamscapes to a complete re-telling of the plot of Tarkovsky’s 1989 opus Stalker; which film I had watched a few days ago on a whim, feeling the reference forthcoming.
Jumping The Shark Fantastic is excellent experimental theatre, immediate and purposeful; though limited in scope and at times disengaging, but without overstaying its welcome. It’s every reference you’ve ever heard, each performance or film you’ve seen or every story you’ve heard except – get this – turns out you’ve already seen bits of it, in a dream a few weeks ago or something.
Words By Nick Morlet