Review: Sea Change (Theatre Caravel)

Sea Change makes experimental theatre comfortable (and funny) in an old Toronto coach house.

Nicole Ratjen was deluged with ping-pong balls while performing the last minute-or-so of a new work.

“Brings me back to ping-pong camp,” one person gently mused.

Ms. Ratjen’s was the third of four performances as part of a quarterly showcase called Sea Change, hosted by Theatre Caravel’s Eric Double and Julia Nish-Lopidus at CineCycle.

First up that night was Andy Cockburn, known previously for humourous sexual poetry, reading a story he had written.

Mr. Cockburn said that the story, which he intended for children, came to him originally as a nightmare while taking chloroquine, an antimalarial drug.

Teodoro Dragonieri proffered a lecture on the history of masks next. Or at least attempted to; a heckling clown interrupted.

Unlike most heckling clowns who are just drunk, this one, named Mr. Kazoo, was wearing a red nose and white face paint.

Ms. Ratjen’s work, which followed an intermission, and was co-performed with Andrew Gaboury, was a scene between two polar bears. Ms. Ratjen’s bear was the more anxious and innocent of the two. Mr. Gaboury’s had a more rational demeanour – calculating, for example, the amount of time the two of them had left to live on a small iceberg they were floating on.

Ms. Ratjen circulated a canvas bag filled with ping-pong balls before the scene began. With cues provided to the audience by Mr. Double – “I’m going to go like this,” he said, throwing one hand in the air à la Braveheart, “and go, YAAA” – the two performers were pelted by plastic hailstorms during their reading.

Dave Borins took the stage after, with his shiny – “I just noticed I’m glaring people in the audience” – acoustic guitar.

“Anyone who gets one in the guitar,” Mr. Borins said, flashing a smile, referring to any props leftover from the previous work, “gets a prize.”

Mr. Borins played six songs. Most of them were original; one a cover of Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Mr. Borins’ easy lyrics, toe-tapping guitar melodies, and happy-go-lucky style, seemed to make him a crowd favourite.

I had heard Mr. Borins play at a previous Sea Change, and the first time I just remember how loud – his voice is huge because, he says, he spends a lot of time in the woods – and funny he was. This time, I was far more impressed by his guitar work, which seemed more articulate than before.

This was just my second time going to Sea Change. But when I got to the old coach house where it was held, I showed my friend around the place as though I had been there a dozen times.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s an exceptionally warm and comforting vibe at Sea Change. Mr. Double and Mr. Nish-Lopidus have a naturally humourous style of hosting and I felt as though I were at home.

It’s a superb environment for an artist testing out new material and I always find it a genuine pleasure to attend.

The next Sea Change comes up in three months or so.