A play date with … us: Merk du Solapocalypse, a Fringe review

Merk du Solapocalyse. Photo by Brianne Jang.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Merk du Solapocalypse (Westbury Theatre)

In this latest instalment of Dammitammy Productions’ loopy Merk du Soleil series, the twin concept goofy/giddy really comes into its own.

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There is no real way to explain the nutbar down-at-heel charms of an entertainment that weight-lifts with pool noodles, revels equally in terrible puns and wigs, and introduces acts that include a stand-up comedian so spectacularly atrocious that he counts as a satire of stand-up, or maybe spoken word performance. And then the show suddenly cuts to an original song that really catches the ear.

Hang on. Merk du Solapocalypse has showbiz roots. It borrows — well, pilfers — from circus, old-school vaudeville, and cabaret. And there’s a premise. Merk (Rebecca Merkley, creator/ director/ composer/ Dammitammy muse), the headliner of a circus troupe with no interest in circus acts, has called it quits on live theatre in “the shitshow we call 2021.” Who’s gonna argue with that?

She’s sold off the theatre to some religious outfit. But then, as one of her very likeable trio of Sideshow Boobs (Carol Chu, Yvonne Boon, Kristina Hunszinger) notes, their “open-door policy” meant that the door was actually open and their stuff got stolen. Odds against notwithstanding, the Boobs say “the show must go on, jump jump jump jump kick.” Words to live by.

It’s what they do. And, hey, there seems to be an audience, so why the hell not?

What ensues has something to do with time-travelling, back back back to when there was no art. There were, however, cows (or do they come later? my notes are unclear on this point). And by then, we get to be part of a survey of our biggest beefs in order. (Anti-vaxxers got the biggest boo, at the performance I caught; the government was a contender).

Anyhow, in a stop along the space-time continuum, Jesus shows up with a parable. There’s Bible study that loses interest in itself and wanders off. It’s just one thing after another at the Solapocalypse, a high-speed entertainment with an attention deficit. Scenes end before the punch line; so do jokes, a vaudevillian take on nihilism perhaps.

The whole thing — including the sound which could use a boost — has an air of scrambled spontaneity that makes improv look planned out (back to goofy/giddy). You’ll have fun if you just sit back, relax, and go with free association and the non sequitur as a concept. And you’d have even more fun, I think, if you could hear everything better.

It’s a play date — with us. And the “us” is, in the end, the heart of the banter. “It was you who kept us breathing,” the beaming cast tells us. Yup, we’re back to live.


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