Red Bastard- Review

Brianna McFarlane

If you’re not a fan of being forced into genuine interaction with a stage performance, then Red Bastard, performed by Eric Davis and created under the direction of Sue Morrison with continued direction by Deanna Fleysher, will likely turn you off of one man bouffon shows for a while. However, I urge the Fringe patrons of Ottawa to expand their minds and shake their inhibitions and check out this show, because it offers a truly new perspective on theatre and is an all-around great experience.

It’s hard to describe exactly what happens in Studio Leonard-Beaulne, and trying to do so would only ruin the performance. The blackbox stage is laid bare apart from one chalkboard hanging in the extreme upstage curtain. The Red Bastard doesn’t need any set as his presence alone fills the entire space. In a ridiculously padded red onesie, the performer invites the audience to co-create in his show by participating genuinely and enthusiastically. In no uncertain terms, the Red Bastard tells the audience that “the piece will be what you make it.”

Davis pulls some incredible confessions out of the audience. From a woman admitting to having sexual fantasies about the performer to a man confronting his desperate and heartbreaking attempts to get in contact with his estranged brother, the show delivers on its promise to have something interesting happen every ten seconds.

Perhaps, the most powerful moment, for me, is when the performer convinces an audience member to get on stage and call an old friend, who the audience member felt had wronged him, and say the things the gentleman had so obviously been keeping bottled up. With the support of an entire audience behind him, the gentleman lets loose (via voicemail) and is given some of the satisfaction he clearly desired. Only the people who were there can really understand what happened after the phone call: this particular audience will most certainly always think about it when reminiscing about that time they met the Red Bastard.

The show changes every performance and is heavily dependent on the willingness of the audience, yet I still appreciated The Red Bastard on many levels. Davis’s performance was inspiring, and he embodied the Bastard from head to toe; it exudes a certain professionalism in the sense that the performer remains in full control of his script the entire time; and finally it’s provocative in that it forces audience members to step outside of their comfort zone and make a genuine connection with the performer on stage. This is a show Ottawa audiences need to see. It is excellent and showcases the bouffon genre at its finest.