Rising Tide's 'Revue' plugging along

Gordon Jones
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Imagine, a quarter century of Rising Tide's annual Revue. How much foolery does that add up to?, How much caricature. How much song and dance?

Mind boggling, eh? In any event, on Friday past, a substantial opening-night audience was evidently looking for something - anything - to laugh at after the past annus horribilis, as the Queen would have it.

The cast of Rising Tide Theatre's "Revue 2009" appear in this promotional photo. - Submitted photo

Imagine, a quarter century of Rising Tide's annual Revue. How much foolery does that add up to?, How much caricature. How much song and dance?

Mind boggling, eh? In any event, on Friday past, a substantial opening-night audience was evidently looking for something - anything - to laugh at after the past annus horribilis, as the Queen would have it.

So who are this year's goats and Aunt Sallies? First up is an apocalyptic sketch featuring Danny Williams and Jerome Kennedy, two political figures who remain front and centre during the evening of topical satire and lampoon. Elaborate, set-piece episodes are interspersed with simple domestic skits, stand-up routines, and music and dance numbers, the latter led by Jim Payne with guitar and ballads, satirical or sentimental. Continuity is in large part sustained by Payne's musical bridges. He also pulls his weight in many of the scenes, as well as delivering a rapid-fire rant on matters many and various. This solo tour de force was well received by the opening-night audience, even if it was intermittently rendered incomprehensible by virtue of speed of delivery.

Swine flu' and peculating politicians in the Pen are featured in what Rick Boland in a pink suit and porcine snout calls the Year of the Pig. Oink! Oink! Less pertinent is the riff on the underwear bomber, with a cheerily vulgar punch-line. Three raging grannies from Flower's Cove sing and dance, expressing outrage over proposed closure of medical facilities - an apt but scarcely cerebral rendering of events. And Boland's curmudgeonly, hard-of-hearing gramps is again on display, but wearing a bit thin, perhaps, after years of milking laughs with repeated "What?, What?"

Moose on the highways and the Paradise mayoralty contest lead up to an exotic if laboured sketch featuring Yvonne Jones as a female Indiana Jones, calling for assistance from John Efford , who enters sporting admiral's uniform and Bay Roberts accent. Whether in or out of political office, John Efford is evidently a phenomenon that satirists are loath to relinquish. An episode featuring actors costumed as moose holding a formal meeting to gripe about their difficulties with Newfoundlanders is feeble - and excruciatingly boring to boot. Two residents of Port Rexton gatecrash the Government House reception for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. Not much happens in the skit, although Charles's oversize ears are something to see. But surely the crown prince wants to rid England of aggressive, grey squirrels, introduced from the United States, not the timid, native breed of red squirrels?

A three-woman, reality-show spoof (housewives of Hare Bay) fixates on vibration machines. As usual, the Revue formula is very tolerant of intimate body parts and mammary, excretory, and procreative functions, not to mention sanitary products for the missus. And dentures can generally be relied upon to raise a laugh. Ah, well, a goodly portion of their audiences will doubtless be tickled by scofflaw breach of polite bourgeois taboos.

Cleaning up St. John's Harbour is indignantly excoriated by a Rubenesque female embodiment of the harbour. The sketch met with a slightly puzzled reception on opening night. It is original enough to merit retainment when the long knives come out, although the company will likely drop it when they go on the road as being too specific to the capital city. And I think the number I liked best in the first stretch of the show was the mildly sacrilegious sketch that ushers in the intermission, a sketch in which Yvonne Jones leads a Salvation Army band, lauding Joey Smallwood, lustily belting out "Onward Liberal soldiers/Marching as to war," while urging the flock in the Straits and the Northern Peninsula to return to the Liberal fold and fight the good fight against Tory devilry.

The first full-scale episode after the intermission is a highly costumed comic-book sketch. Caped crusader, Dan Man and his sidekick, Ed Martin (think Batman and Robin), rail against the evil, slinky separatist, Cat Woman, Kay Beck (Quebec, get it?). Premiers of La Belle Provence and New Brunswick are represented as The Riddler and The Joker, while Boland is elegantly nonchalant as Penguin Harper. Conceptually amusing, the sketch does not quite find its trajectory.

A simple, straight-faced, stand-up lament for the loss of gravel-pit camping culture is a keeper. A bizarre send-up of dinner-theatre in rural Touch-me-Hole definitely is not. Especially while touring an entertainment across the Province, a company should be wary of constructing glass houses and hurling rocks through their windows. "The Godfather" inspired sketch in which Earl McCurdy is represented as The Codfather is slow, even lumbering, but you must tip your hat to Boland's vocal and physical impersonation of Marlon Brando playing Don Corleone.

Bringing up the rear are Payne as an unreconstructed Bayman living in St. John's, a Liberal barbershop quartet, Colonel Ghadafi proposing to visit the capital city, and a banal sketch about a geriatric Premier Williams reclaiming Churchill Falls in 2041. Prior to the song-and-dance curtain call, the final set piece is themed around the ghoulish Addams family, who are now residing in Grand Bruit and being offered government financing to relocate. Stilted, under-rehearsed, under-blocked, and underdone, the static piece is eminently pointless - an excellent candidate for theatrical resettlement.

Directed as always by Donna Butt and featuring in the cast most of the usual suspects, the 25th edition of Rising Tide's "Revue 2009" opened at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre on January 8 and continues its run January 13-16, touring subsequently to other centres in the province.

The first-night show opened promptly at 8 p.m. Including intermission, it lasted for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Never mind the quality, feel the length. Still, the audience seemed to like it, and the test run served to demonstrate that there is an ample amount of weak and sophomoric material that may be excised without regret so as to bring the show down to a less gruelling running time.

Organizations: Government House, Salvation Army

Geographic location: St. John's, Bay Roberts, Port Rexton England United States Hare Bay Quebec La Belle Provence New Brunswick Grand Bruit

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