Loon by the Wonderheads at UVic Phoenix Theatre. Spotlight on Alumni. October 14-24, 2015. A review.

Loon by the Wonderheads at UVic Phoenix Theatre. Spotlight on Alumni. October 14-24, 2015. A review.

Since graduating from the University of Victoria in 2003, Kate Braidwood has studied at Dell’Arte International school of physical theatre and founded The Wonderheads with now-husband Andrew Phoenix.

By magical transmutation and superb artistic ability, a full size larval mask (see notes at the end) appears to come alive in the character of Francis—a loner, grieving the loss of his mother, and hoping to connect romantically with the woman of his dreams.

Tight time-lines (the show runs 60 minutes) demand careful and judicious choreography of physical movement and technical aspects. Rather than depending on a pre-recorded sound track, Phoenix co-ordinates 50 lighting and 120 sound cues (sound design by Braidwood), producing comedy and laughter in the juxtaposition—hands wiped on clothes three times to the emphasis of cello notes; the ping of discovery when a curtain is opened.

Loon by the Wonderheads UVic Phoenix October 2015
Francis may be an everyman, alone and bereft, but thanks to a box of childhood treasures lovingly retained by his mother, his is able to summon memories of past loves and adventures. Despite disappointment in love, there is still a remnant of hope that life can be different.

Falling into wonder at Francis’ world, the audience marvels at small intricacies—an apartment created out of a suitcase containing radio, clock and dimmer switch a reminder of dolls’ houses and shadow boxes of yore.

There is a certain sentimentality in the choice of music and film sound clips, among them songs like It’s Only a Paper Moon and famous scenes from Casablanca. Francis may live in a modern world, but he remains, until now, firmly anchored in the past. His struggle to leave nostalgia behind, and strive for a better future, is indeed, epic, as he rekindles his passion for space, and in particular, the moon.

Braidwood emulates the slow, hesitant movements of an older man—a plodder by nature—with care, detail and finesse, and is superb as a middle-aged suitor waiting for the date who never shows.

Francis’ story hooks the audience with a sense of urgency from the beginning and demands a piece of each person’s heart become invested in the outcome, wordless cries of “you can do it Francis” resounding complicitly in everyone’s mind. Such is the power of The Wonderheads.

Loon is highly polished craft, playful story-telling and a chance to re-ignite the inner child.

LOON is a love story that whisks a man to the moon and back. Francis is a lonely janitor who is plagued by isolation and tickled by whispers of childhood imagination. He has hit rock bottom and discovers that he has nowhere to go…but up. And up. And up! But will plucking the moon from the sky bring him the love he is searching for? Wordless and whimsical, LOON is brought to you by the acclaimed mask imagineers and physical theatre company whose work has been described as watching a living cartoon. It’s a beautifully surprising mix of physical theatre, comedy and pathos and a love story the likes of which you’ve never seen.

Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Loon by The Wonderheads
UVic Phoenix Theatre, Spotlight on Alumni
October 14-24, 2015
Tickets: $15-$25 Phoenix box office 250 721 8000 or in person

Francis Kate Braidwood

Creative Team:
Devised in Ensemble by WONDERHEADS
Director Andrew Phoenix
Mask Design Kate Braidwood
Set Design Andrew Phoenix
Sound Design Kate Braidwood
Costume Assistance Valerie Ditchfield
Stage Manager Andrew Phoenix

Further reading:

Disclaimer:  I received complimentary tickets to attend Loon at the UVic Phoenix Theatre.

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