Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir performs as part of In the Chamber 2011: Holiday Special (Leif Norman)
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.... whether we like it or not. If you're already tired of the commercialism of the season, this play's for you.
Eight Tiny Reindeer of the Apocalypse offers a bracing tonic to this lunacy. It's one half of Theatre Projects Manitoba's annual presentation In the Chamber 2011: Holiday Special. It's a one-person show written and performed by Ellen Peterson, exploring our relationship with the holidays and the pursuit of meaning in this buy-buy-buy world.
Sharing the stage will be the Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir, turning fa-la-las into ha-ha-has with their raucous and rolicking mix of music, satire, costumes and other antics. Ardith Boxall directs.
SCENE wanted to get some background on Eight Tiny Reindeer of the Apocalypse. Ellen Peterson spoke with Theatre Projects Manitoba's Anne Bennet:
If someone simply asked 'what's the play about', what would you tell them?
It is the story of how the end of civilization as we know it is brought about by Christmas. Every time I go to a mall in December (or November) I can't help thinking "end times...end times..." It looks like a society gone wrong. It looks like a disaster. So I've taken that feeling to the extreme.
The play is a very different theatrical experience. Did the message drive the process for you, or did you simply set out to create a holiday play?
I have trouble celebrating the holidays, for the reasons cited above. I love Christmas, at least I love the concept, but the reality is impossible. It's just way way too much. I feel trapped by it: I can't stand it, I think a lot of it is just wrong, but here I am baking shortbread, you know? I felt that if Christmas is such a problem for me, I should do something about it!
By last year I noticed I was complaining A LOT to anyone who would listen, and my complaints started to sound like a halfway funny comedy routine. People were nodding their heads in agreement too. I was telling people "if I am going to do Christmas again, I am actually going to require therapy" and "I'm going to write a play called "Christmas is F%#+!d."
Ardith heard about it and called me up. Called my bluff. Which is good because I can't really afford the therapy right now and this way maybe I can help some other people. I'm not the only one who feels this way. And it's more than just a personal problem. I truly believe that we as a society are doing some dangerous, stupid things, and the way we celebrate Christmas is one of them.
How do you think the play fits within the Winnipeg holiday entertainment landscape?
It's a shot of tequila in a sea of eggnog, maybe. It's (hopefully) going to be helpful to laugh about this problem, and think about what we need from Christmas and how we could get it without going to hell in a handbasket. Think of it as a chance to "Occupy Christmas."
How does it fit with the intent behind 'In the Chamber'?
I think when Ardith looks for people to do this, she tries to find someone with something they need to say, someone who has an idea or issue banging at the door demanding release. One artist who had done In The Chamber said he looked at it as a chance to tell the truth about himself, an idea I found so terrifying I wanted try it at once. I don't know if I've succeeded. It has forced me to take a good look at my own cynicism. I've tried to be honest, but it's not just about me.
Fu Fu Chi Chi CHoir (Leif Norman). Above, Ellen Peterson (TPM)