Artistic Fraud takes flight with a massive new work

Karla Hayward
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Facing their Fear 'Fear of Flight' opens Tuesday at the LSPU Hall

It's the most primal of emotions. One we're all prey to, try as we might to put walls between us and the wolves, convenient microwavable pouches between our food and the field, and book clubs between us and the beast within.

That hair-raising, tremor-inducing feeling is what connects all the characters in Artistic Fraud's return to the large-scale performances that defined their beginnings, "Fear of Flight."

Facing her fear, Petrina Bromley performs in "Fear of Flight." Submitted photo

It's the most primal of emotions. One we're all prey to, try as we might to put walls between us and the wolves, convenient microwavable pouches between our food and the field, and book clubs between us and the beast within.

That hair-raising, tremor-inducing feeling is what connects all the characters in Artistic Fraud's return to the large-scale performances that defined their beginnings, "Fear of Flight."

Feeling a little deja vu? Chalk it up to the fact that "Fear of Flight" was previously performed by students of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College's theatre program. This time around, it's a fully professional production. Which means Fraud's Jillian Keiley and Robert Chafe have been able to refine and reinvent portions, and really up the artistic ante.

Most noticeably, they've pared the previous cast of 30 down to 14. Chafe says that having fewer actors allows the audience a greater glimpse into each person's story.

"We wanted to give the audience a sense of knowing everyone on the plane, and that just wasn't possible with 30 people," he says.

So just what are those stories? Well, they're not, as the title may imply, all about aerophobia. They're all very different in fact, though they share fear as a common theme. Some of the men and women "trapped" upon this transatlantic flight are afraid of the actual act of flying; some fear what they've left behind; others, what they'll find upon landing.

Struggling not to give too much away, Chafe admits that, "There's a young street kid on the way to visit her dying mother. A bride going on her honeymoon by herself. There's a woman going to visit the brother of Jesus Christ, and a businessman on his way to a very important meeting." Together, he says, they add up to a tale of timidity in life, and eventually, learning how to conquer those feelings.

"I can speak personally in that a lot of my nervousness around flying - and other things in my life - is really about lack of control. ... Ultimately, this show kind of lands with many of the characters admitting the happiness of accepting their lack of control."

Each person's tale of fear - or courage, depending on where you're standing - was written by a different author. Explaining why, Chafe says, "We've had the good fortune to meet some amazing writers, some pretty prominent writers. As we were developing the show, we had the thought that it would be fun to have some of those people write a character for us." So, they put out the call for pieces on fear - flight or otherwise - and back came monologues from people like Daniel McIvor, Judith Thompson and Berni Stapleton. Chafe then took those pieces and tweaked them until he had "the shape of a play."

The cast includes local favourites like Petrina Bromley, Phil Churchill, Andrew Dale and Phillip Goodridge, as well as several new faces. In addition to speaking their lines, the actors serve as a chorus for one another, singing a cappella and performing actions in unison.

"One of the things that really interests us is how much of the total experience can be created by the actors on stage," says Chafe. "So, it became very important to us to explore having everything, all sound, coming from the actors on stage." With that in mind, they commissioned an original a cappella score by Newfoundlander Jonathan Monro. "Also," Chafe says, "digging into what people naturally do on planes really leads to some great choral movements."

There's little doubt that this incarnation of "Fear of Flight" will soar. See for yourself, April 29 to May 4 or May 6 to 11 at the LSPU Hall. For more info go to www.artisticfraud.com.

Fear.

Organizations: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College

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