Five stars for Five Hole

By Kevin de Vlaming

Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica set the bar for future probes into the steamy under-the-cup world of NHL players in Canada when it premiered last Thursday as this year’s High Performance Rodeo headline show. Dave Bidini, author of the Five Hole novel as well as member of the Canadian rock band Rheostatics, collaborated with the One Yellow Rabbit team to bring his music and prose together onstage at the Martha Cohen Theatre. The Rabbits shine in this theatrical adaptation of five short stories taken from the book, giving an amusingly quirky portrayal of offbeat lust and love in the best team sport on two skates.

“Finding the erotic nature of hockey was definitely an exploratory thing for me,” says Andy Curtis, longstanding member of One Yellow Rabbit and prominent player in Five Hole, “I guess when you’re watching the playoffs and they show you a replay in slo-mo, they could dub in a wakachika-wakachika and it would make it kind of sexy. What gets you all pumped up, chubbed up, or wet?”

Each scene could be considered as its own group-intimacy experience with Bidini and the OYR ensemble. The narrative starts off fresh as a virgin schoolgirl, presenting the audience with some things they’ve never seen before–a hockey player secretly coveting the forbidden love of his team-mate in the relative sanctity of the men’s locker-room and a nearly-nude woman dancing erotically in goalie pads and mask­–then the foreplay begins. Emotions heighten as a surprisingly beautiful story writhes out from under the covers of the nation’s proudest pastime, building momentum and drawing the audience member closer and closer to the scene’s climax.

This is where the effectiveness of Bidini’s storytelling is most defined. The audience is forced to re-examine the familiar concept of sexuality through the lens of a motif familiar and particularly relevant to Canadians. The resulting union between sex and hockey is so unexpectedly harmonious that the audience, caught off guard, is unwittingly and fully seduced.

Possibly to avoid the recurring need for tissue paper, each scene’s climax comes in the form of a brand new song performed live by the Rheostatics. This is more accurate than to suggest that the Rheostatics merely provide a soundtrack to the performance, or a series of musical interludes–the narrative of each separate story flows neatly into a wrap-up piece offered up by Canada’s premiere troupe of iconoclastic art-rockers.

Though the performance does start slow, with the opening piece “Joan,” attempting to ease the viewer into such unfamiliar notions as lesbian hockey porn through a dialogue between two hockey buddies (Curtis and Michael Green), once the pace picks up it doesn’t let up­–straight through to the touching story of a man whose career may only be saved through the application of a mystical salve to his testicles (played by Green in “I am Bobby Wolf”). Also, avid hockey fans will take more from the production than less patriotic theatregoers, who might miss some of the allusions Bidini snuck in throughout the dialogue.

“Dave sort of blended fiction and non-fiction,” says Curtis, “He’s been around the game of hockey quite a lot, so his breadth of knowledge consistently blows me away. It’s like, ‘Oh, number 12, no, that was Gary Belger that said that, in 1962.’ He played right-wing!”

Accessibility and early lag aside, One Yellow Rabbit’s performance of Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica entertains as a poetic salute to high-sticking both on and off the ice.

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