One Yellow Rabbit’s Heavenly production falls from grace

It is great to bear witness to times of pure genius, where experimental theatre fills the psyche, incorporating dance and music with an avant-garde, witty and eloquent script.


Other times are not as fulfilling.


Confusion clouds the experimental stage, leading you to believe that the one moment your attention swayed may have been the exact point where everything made sense and you are left profoundly lost in translation. Heavens to Murgatroid, One Yellow Rabbit’s new play, lies somewhere in those clouds which, while displaying moments of clear brilliance, are largely obscured by a disjointed script and confusing stage direction.


The play opens to an almost heavenly set, an intermediary stop at Heaven’s gates where white clouds and transparent scrim juxtapose a dusty black floor–a perfect setting for a family of modern sinners facing judgment at the Pearly Gates.


Confusion sets in as we are introduced to Pete (Brad Paine), the cynical guardian angel/cab driver/Pearly Gate host who has to go back to Earth to release himself of his past burdens, where he kills a family by accident. What is supposed to be a pivotal intermediary role only creates logistical air pockets in the script, as Pete is at once everything between Earth and the hereafter. This floating character is nevertheless amusing, moving across the stage with pessimistic ease, energy and gymnastic expertise.


The other characters are also caught in this awkward position between Heaven and Earth, unaware what is going on, unaware they are dead. This ambivalent situation has the potential to exploit great wit and circumstantial irony, but the script falters on the grounds of logic.


Why are the recently-dead family members compelled to explain their moderately sinful lives if, for the better half of the play, they don’t even know they’re dead, which automatically presupposes they don’t know they are being judged at Heaven’s gates?


While each character is put to life with quirky, alluring, almost cartoon quality, and while the performers all perform with brilliant sense of movement, humour, and a strikingly honest delivery, individually they are not enough to hold a largely disjointed play together.


We hope the story will progress, that a relationship development will emerge, or that Pete will find his place in the world. Alas, we are given none of the above.


Unity and flow might have been redeemed in the various dance insertions which put Denise Clarke’s stamp decisively on the performance. In a moment of comic wit, when the performers scurry on tiptoe to the beat of Looney Toons and into the passage of the afterlife, we see the potential and direction the script wanted to take.


The remainder of the interpretative dance pieces, although well performed and comically pleasing, are not sufficiently explained by the script. In the end, we are taken to the edge of the afterlife with only a faint explanation of how these characters got there.

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