Get lost in the magic of Helen Donnelly’s Saucisse – A Foo Musical at Toronto’s Pia Bouman Scotiabank Theatre
The bare bones:
With humour and humility, seventy-five minutes and a pig puppet, Helen Donnelly one-ups just about any other comedy staged in Toronto this year.
Saucisse, playing at the Pia Bouman Scotiabank Theatre, explores friendship, fate and the pursuit of happiness; it manages, even, to lampoon the perversions of authority to which human beings are so disastrously prone. All this while delivering expertly timed comedy, merciless caricature, six professionally orchestrated musical numbers and a botany lesson.
Oh, and it’s not even written in English; it’s written in some kind of clown gobbledy-gook.
Saucisse stars Helen Donnelly, multitalented veteran of Cirque du Soleil. Donnelly plays both Foo, a wandering misfit, and Saucisse, a spirtually-inclined wild pig (Sus Scrofa) he meets while traveling through the desert.
The play is all about the relationship between its characters. Foo is a contradictory blend of brashness and unease: determined, a little sketchy, and ever-so-slightly Quebecois. In little more than an hour, Donnelly’s spunky creation plays harmonica, gets kicked out of a planetarium, sings opera in what seemed like three different octaves, discovers a best friend, gets drunk, gets high, tries to sell you shit, realizes things too late, and keeps trying anyway.
Saucisse, meanwhile, is tranquil and self-assured, liberal in his expressiveness and driven by his steadfast faith in a “Daveen Plarn.” The pursuit of this plan lends the play its impressive narrative arc: Foo finds a sense of purpose in his friendship with Saucisse, and as his good-humoured apathy melts into affection, Donnelly ups the emotional ante, placing ever more weight upon this tragicomic house of cards.
What makes this play almost magical – what makes missing it unforgivable – is its seemingly impossible marriage of the universal and the utterly unique. Everything about Saucisse – its production, its props, its set design and orchestration – is strikingly original.
But Saucisse taps into something we all feel, a sense of longing, fear and hope so primal it defies language and can only be revealed through jibberish. Donnelly has the warm heart and icy blood of a master playwright, pulling you into her embrace only to get a better shot at your jugular. Every element in the play is perfectly placed, and it’s hard not to admire her sense of narrative and timing as she finally decides to let the whole thing fall apart.
- Saucisse plays at the Pia Bouman Scotiabank Theatre (6 Noble St) till October 20, 2012.
- Performances run Saturday October 13th at 8PM, Sunday October 14th at 2pm, Wednesday through Saturday (October 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th) at 8PM.
- Tickets are $20/Adult, $15/Arts Worker, $10/Children (over eight).
- Tickets are available online and at the door; online reservations are recommended.
– Photo by Neil Muscott