Review by Wes Babccok
This show is very much worth watching, and I think that it is even more worth talking about after you’ve seen it. After I talk about some things I like, I am going to provide some starting points for that conversation below, but it’s going to contain spoilers that will disrupt the surprise that is crucial when you see the show. So read on, and I promise to warn you before I ruin the surprise. Then you can come back after you see it and have made up your own mind.
Let’s begin with the indisputable: Windy Wynazz is an electric presence on stage. She wins the audience so completely from the outset, that we are willing to forgive her character for almost anything. And we’ll have to be. Because by the end of the show, she plays with all that rapport she’s built to make her point.
The story here is not the point. Wynazz reenacts a few formative moments in her life – childhood bullying, clashes with authorities policing her chocolate intake, and her subsequent pact with Satan to ensure her future fame – all of which inform the themes that she will address throughout the play. My impression is that the point of the show is to point out the clownish nature of our society’s sexuality, and particularly the hypersexual place that women are expected to occupy.
The show features a number of somewhat choppy scenes in a strange universe, from which Wynazz makes frequent brief disappearances backstage to pull new elements on stage. This show flows smoothly despite these moments of interruption, and its frequent engagement of the audience (something that is unpredictable and dangerous for performers at the best of times), comes to have larger thematic implications. This show works because Wynazz works the room like a master, and her performance is unforgettable in every sense.
My strongest reaction to Uncouth is that it is a very, very strange piece of theatre. I laughed quite a lot, but it was that slightly-uncomfortable sort of laughter that comes when someone holds up a lens to something in which you are implicated by dint of your membership in society.
Here comes the spoiler discussion. Go see the show. I’ll see you in an hour.
The most interesting moment comes near the middle of the show, when an audience member is pulled up on stage. This person undergoes a clown courtship ritual, which culminates in a rather unsettling moment of sexual intimacy and climax. Throughout their tenure on stage, this person is left for several drawn out moments as the centre of attention, and the desperate glint that becomes evident in their eyes foreshadows what’s to come. This discomfort in a member of their own group unexpectedly implicated in the performance incites a lot of Schadenfreude mirth in the audience (Ha ha, look at how uncomfortable he’s getting, I sure am glad that’s not me).
I’m not absolutely fluent in clown, but it seems to me that Wynazz not only enacts a very sexual moment before this person, but also includes them in the act itself as more than a simple spectator. By the time he is free to return to the seat he originally occupied, I was convinced that in the clown world, they might just be ex lovers.
This is a great moment on stage, and very funny on several levels. And when I started thinking about it, I wondered what Wynazz is saying about us all that we find this spectacle so amusing. Why are we laughing at this? Does he want to be there? Did he have a choice about it, or was he obligated by pressure from the rest of us to be a “good audience member,” and help the show along? What does this mean when we think about it in the larger social context?
Having been so intrigued by this show, I had to go further than simply writing a review about my time in the audience. I spoke with the audience volunteer from my show, as well as another show, and they both agreed that, as uncomfortable as their participation made them in some ways, they would not say no if Wynazz asked them again to come on stage.
I also spoke with Wynazz herself about the show’s “climactic” moment, about which Wynazz notes the point of innocent discovery from which her character approaches every interaction with the world.
As a result of this “extra” research, all I can say is I like the show more. Which has little to do with my critical opinion that the show succeeds in a lot of very interesting ways, but does let me recommend it with even greater enthusiasm.