Atomic Vaudeville Presents: Action Revue Feel the Fight. Interview with Britt Small.

Atomic Vaudeville Presents: Action Revue Feel the Fight. Interview with Britt Small.

I missed the Action Revue workshop in 2015 so when the media release for Action Revue: Feel the Fight landed in my email in-box, I knew that I would be making time to attend this year’s version.  Atomic Vaudeville co-founder, and member of the Action Revue creative team, Britt Small agreed to answer a few questions about the show and the process.

Action Revue Feb 2016 poster

The original impetus for Action Revue: Feel the Fight was Norah Vincent’s book, A Self-Made Man, published in 2006 after she spent 18 months passing as a man. In your everyday experience—has much changed over the past decade? Are people more open to talking about gender identity, stereotypes and roles?

Things have ramped up quite a bit as social media has grown and people reach out to each other about their experiences and get into debates on Facebook.

Vincent says “to look another male in the eye and hold his gaze is to invite conflict”. When you wanted to explore the ideas of masculinity why did you choose a boxing ring? Is being male essentially about conflict?

Jacob had the idea of a boxing ring a long time ago, when we did a cabaret called ‘Fight Night’. It seemed like a challenge to force ourselves into a contained space and work with the conventions of an announcer with a microphone that was dropped from the ceiling and have him yell ‘Let’s get ready to rumble.’

I don’t think being male is about conflict but when you look up synonyms for masculinity, words like power, strength, virility come up. The focus is often on physical prowess which finds a home and celebration in combat sports.

When people think about “exploring archetypes” there would be a tendency to think “this is going to be a serious show”. Is it? How do you find humour in deconstructing stereotype?

When you push stereotypes to their extreme, they can be very humorous. In our cabaret shows, we’ve found humour is a great way to force things into the open and lay them out in an exaggerated way so we can see them more clearly. Humour can be a great ‘unknotter’ of problems. This show has drama, comedy, lots of music and dance/movement.

As a creative team comprised of men and women, what elements did you find particularly challenging, or surprising? What biases did you find yourself confronting as you wrote the show? How much of the show has evolved as you have worked with the actors (many of whom are long-standing collaborators)?

The show is primarily written by Jacob Richmond and Alex Wlasenko, the choreography has been shared between myself, Sarah Murphy, Treena Stubel and Kelly Hobson. We’ve also as performer contributed some personal stories and monologues. We’ve been working so quickly we haven’t had a lot of time to reflect yet on the process, but it has been really exciting and dynamic so far.

Can you comment on the design elements? You’ve worked with Jimbo Insell (and Alex of course) before but is this the first time for a collaboration with composer Marko Bozenich?

We’re working with Ben Burrow as an lighting designer and a very talented projectionist named Guy Segal who has worked with bands and special events so we’re happy to pull him into our world. Marco we know from Meatdraw and Hank and Lily and he played in the Rocky Horror band. I’ve been wanting to work with him for a while, he can create beats and electronic soundscapes which is where we are leaning, along with other genres of music. He’ll also play live. Jimbo is creating an epic ritual world for us.

Atomic Vaudeville audiences are very faithful and have followed the evolution of many projects, including Ride the Cyclone since its inception. For someone who is not familiar with your work what would you say to encourage them to attend? What do you hope to spark in the audience of Action Revue: Feel the Fight?

The audience will be incredibly entertained, we tend to work episodically so the piece is in a collage form with a kind of variety show feel but linked together thematically. We hope everyone has a life changing catharsis and leaves the theatre purged of all their evils.

When you talk about the continued development of this piece—how do you see it progressing?

This is the initial phase of work in terms of conception and production, meaning that within a year or so our intention is to remount the piece with the information we glean from this go round and eventually tour the piece nationally.

What makes an Atomic Vaudeville audience “insightful”? And, since this is a work in development, are you looking for feedback? If so, what type of feedback?

I think Victoria audiences are unpretentious and so a lot of the reaction/response tends to be quite genuine as opposed to coloured with a sense of what’s fashionable. The feedback comes from the vocal/physical cues we get from the audience once we throw the piece at them.

Atomic Vaudeville Presents
Action Revue: Feel the Fight
February 18, 19, 20 – 8PM
The Metro Studio Theatre – 1141 Quadra St.
Tickets – Adult: $22 (before fees), Student Rush: $15 through Ticket Rocket – 250.590-6291 –

Atomic Vaudeville explores combat, violence and masculine stereotypes in this ambitious new work set in a boxing ring.

Started in 2014, Action Revue was first presented in rough workshop form for one night at the Metro Theatre in 2015. This performance takes that work further with a writing collaboration between Jacob Richmond, Alex Wlasenko and Britt Small. This project came about out of an interest to further develop themes explored in our cabaret series with shows such as: My Dad can Beat up your Dad, Fight Night, Violence is Gay. Small was inspired by the book A Self-Made Man where a female journalist went undercover as a man for over a year. The show explores the central question of how masculine archetypes are both created and destroyed with a ring master narrating a series of bouts set in a boxing ring.

With the wild success of Ride the Cyclone, which was Time Out Chicago’s show of the year and is now Broadway-bound, Atomic Vaudeville is following a similar creative path for this new show by unfolding evolving phases of the process to a supportive and insightful local audience before polishing the piece for national touring.

The cast includes Wes Borg, Sarah Pelzer, Kelly Hobson, Britt Small, Andrew Barrett, RJ Peters, Sarah Murphy and Treena Stubel. Action Revue is directed by Jacob Richmond with composition by Marco Bozenich production design by James Insell, projection and sound design by Alex Wlasenko, and lighting design by Ben Burrow.


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