Like all art, theatre is made to be entertaining, somewhat relatable, and most importantly, challenging. Late British playwright Sarah Kane took that last point to heart and became something of an outcast in the 1990s for her practice of ‘In-Yer-Face’ theatre—a form that broke away from conventional drama and was often criticized by the upper British middle class for being extremely violent and vulgar. Kane has three plays, Blasted, Cleansed, and Phaedra’s Love, that fall under the In-Yer-Face umbrella, but her 1998 play Crave—while still touching on darker themes such as suicide, loss, and assault—is much more subtle and poetic. Perhaps this is why it caught the eye of Perry Gratton and Samantha Jeffery’s little Edmonton theatre company, StoneMarrow Theatre.
“For Perry, this play is definitely a baby of his,” Jeffery says. “He connects to it really strongly and I think the characters in it really connect with each other.”
Crave is a play that is not really performed much for a number of reasons. Perhaps the one is due to the fact that it is non-linear and has no stage direction. This means that much of the dialogue’s delivery is up to the director and the audience’s interpretation. The dialogue is also made up of intertextual poetic verse, so it can be unclear who the dialogue is meant for. While this may sound detrimental, Jeffery—who is co-producing, artistic directing, and acting in the show—says it’s the exact opposite.
“Even though there are no stage directions there are these conversations and moments that emerge out of the play,” she says. “Perry brought in this amazing choreographer, Ainsley Hillyard, who has been working with us on this really pedestrian, gestural language with each other.”
Jeffery adds that even though none of the actors physically touch each other, they connect on an “energetic level.”
“So if one person stands up, the other three get that impulse and you see it reflected in their bodies,” she says.
This technique makes for an intriguing performance as the audience may see four people on stage, but may think they are playing the same person or rather, four parts of a person’s psyche. The characters—played by Jeffery, Alex Dawkins, Sarah Nicole Emslie, and Gabriel Richardson—are also only named with the letters A, B, C, and M and have no discernible gender.
“It’s hard to explain but here’s two couples of stage and the rest of us will all become the same person sometimes, but sometimes we’re just four people on stage talking to each other. It’s really trippy,” Jeffery says.
She plays M, someone she calls “maternal,” who is in a relationship with B.
“You kind of see the beginning and end of this relationship as it moves through time. I kind of feel like other people on stage get swirled into that as well. I know we [the actors] all have our own ideas of who we are, so I don’t want to tell the audience who everyone is. So maybe A is a different version of B. It’s really up to your interpretation.”
In order to cover the costs of running Crave (theatre isn’t cheap), Gratton and Jeffery started a gofundme in late December. Since launching they have increased their gofundme goal from $2,020 to $7,000.
“We were so hesitant to start it in the first place because we didn’t want to ask our broke artist friends for money,” Jeffery laughs. “We launched it and thought maybe some relatives would contribute but we had one anonymous donor kick a thousand bucks our way and then another anonymous one kick $2,000, so I guess the theatre gods are looking out for us.”
StoneMarrow Theatre also gained around $600 from a fundraiser show at The Buckingham a few days ago.
“This is a fantastic step for us,” Jeffery says.
Each performance of Crave will also begin with a set from a local band to mold the atmosphere of the show.
“Crave is a really auditory show so the idea of having a local band play before is to sort of tune the audience into listening,” Jeffery says. “Perry has always been a massive part of the music scene in Edmonton and wanted to bring these communities together in a way that doesn’t really happen a lot.”
So far the bands confirmed are Lindsey Walker and People Playing in Front Of People, but with the music being chosen by The Sewing Machine Factory’s Tab CA, it’s safe to say that the audience will find the music diverse and celebratory.
“So we have a different band every night. So it’s like you go see a sweet band, have a beer, and watch a play that is not very long. Come enjoy some art.”
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