It was the first Saturday afternoon of Toronto Fringe 2012, when we spot one of the cast members of Temple of Khaos (Daniel Nimmo), Amy J. Lester, at the Fringe club we waved her down and told her how much we loved her show.
Lester is bubbly and energetic, and very excited to speak to us about the show. She immediately phones her castmate Daniel Nimmo to come down for an interview. Nimmo is more somber, but not without a striking intensity, which makes for an interesting dynamic.
It was Nimmo who first came up with the Monty Python meets Game of Thrones theme, and established a mythical structure for the piece they were creating. He quietly explains that chose his future castmates, all friends he met through Fringe or other performance circles, based on their strengths and how they complemented his own.
Between the four of them (the other two castmates being Nicole Ratjen and Kristian Reimer) they have street performance, professional clowning, script development, movement, and improvisation. It is truly the culmination of all these strengths that truly makes the show what it is.
Once Nimmo established the concept, his fellow castmates brainstormed on the idea, developing associations, images and the story grew out of this. The process organically evolved, and Ratjen and Reimer eventually wrote the first draft of the script for London Fringe, and later revised it for Toronto Fringe.
The lens they give us is almost anthropological, and is probably not all that different than the way we look at our own ancient civilizations: through the artifacts and written histories that have survived. “10,000 years for me is to prehistory,” says Nimmo. “It’s as far back as we remember.” The gaps are plentiful, and the assumptions, not without a healthy dose of creativity.
The “idiots” as Lester describes them, do the same thing with the story of our demise, and do so with a charming innocence. “It’s like a child who overhears a conversation, and takes that information and goes and says ‘I know everything about lobster. I know how to cook a lobster real nice,” says Lester.
For me, one of the strongest elements of the show was the connection that was very apparent between the clowns on stage. Lester calls this phenomenon, Complicité. Now that the writing is done and the cast is face-to-face on-stage, it is their collective and combined energy that really brings everything together.
“The audience is really helping us find that complicité, because all of us are out of our heads as writers,” she says. “Really wanting to be good on the stage is one thing, but just being on the stage and being happy to be there is the only thing that makes you good.” Nimmo agrees. We’re making the moments work now,” he says of their efforts to constantly rework elements and improve.
Though the strong sense of character and plot development was, for me, one of the biggest things going for this show, they are still very much in the development phase. They are still working on adding many elements into the story such as music and other extras.
In addition audience participation may grow. Although they experiment with it very slightly, they want to incorporate more of it onto the show. “We’re not going to pull people on the stage ever, they’re the audience and we’re the performers,” says Nimmo. “But we do know they’re there, so they’re not totally safe.”
Nimmo has lofty goals for the show “It’s an organ, developing and it’s something that I hope will run for five years.” With such few resources, it’s already quite sophisticated. The cast reworks the pieces that do not work on a daily basis, making each subsequent performance a little bit better than the last.
Eventually when the show is as big as they can make it (which I have a feeling will be pretty big), the frills will be no issue. “It doesn’t matter if we say ‘I want 10,000 disco balls,’ we can go and get that, and it’s just a thing,” says Lester. For now they are working on making a powerful story with little accessorizing. Once they get the story as strong as it’s going to get, the rest will just be icing on the cake. For Lester, Ratjen, Reimer and Nimmo, there is nowhere to go but up.