A Fabulous Disaster
Written, directed and performed by Denise Clarke
Runs until April 25 @ Factory Theatre
By Daina Valiulis
The stage lights come up on two booted feet resting on a log between two evergreen trees and a loud groan rumbles through the theatre. Groggily, our paper suit-clad heroine sits up, complaining of dry mouth as she reaches for her canteen. From the minute Denise Clarke stands up to the minute she lays back down, she holds the audience captive with her clownish and wistful musings about migrating rhinos, and the “mean” nature of sneezes to heartbreak and divorce.
A Fabulous Disaster is a one-woman show about a middle-aged lesbian who goes into the woods with the intention of rescuing the wild animals from a forest fire, thereby winning back her ex-wife’s love. Produced by the always strong One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre from Calgary, the show sees Clarke monologuing her own work and in the end, succumbing to flames, naked, with a tragic and quietly triumphant dance.
While rambling at times, especially in the beginning, what stands out about this piece is not so much the writing, which at times is very quirky, clever and funny, but Clarke’s performance. Her talent and skills are inspiring. She never stops moving, and it shows over 20 years of training — her body is sometimes as fluid as water and other times, awkward and raggedy. Her facial expressions and the extremes of emotion she treads are amazing and, more often than not, the audience was in stitches with her deadpan delivery.
By the end of the piece, she captures our hearts and her “dance of death” occurs to the strains of “The Swan” from Saint-Saens’ Les Carnivale des Animaux, leaving us with a touching sense of tragedy and triumph as she has died doing something that meant a great deal.
Last seen in Factory’s 2005 Performance Spring Festival during a limited five-day run, A Fabulous Disaster returns the formidable Clarke to us once again. If you are looking for a chance to see a seasoned and pitch perfect performer, check it out.