Review: Skydive

Every once in a while a theatre experience transcends the usual and delivers much more than an audience expects.  This is what  can make live theatre so compelling, relevant, surprising and have the ability to open the theatre-going experience to those that might not otherwise attend.

Skydive does all of these things in a high-flying combo of performance art and “legitimate” theatre that will dazzle audiences.

In conjunction with the PuSh International Arts Festival currently underway on Granville Island, this Realwheels / Arts Club co-presentation has seen its text, staging and technical elements polished and refined following its original production during the 2007 PuSh Festival.

And while we did not see the original, it is not hard to imagine why the Arts Club saw this as a great opportunity to work with Realwheels and PuSh in presenting Skydive to a wider audience.

Bob Frazer and James Sanders in Skydive. Photo by Tim Matheson.
Bob Frazer and James Sanders in Skydive. Photo by Tim Matheson.

The tale of two two brothers, James (Bob Frazer) is somewhat of a lost soul who is now reinventing himself as a Counsellor in the hopes of helping his sibling Daniel (James Sanders) deal with his obsessive-compulsive agoraphobia.

And James’ daring method to help Daniel?  Why, through a skydive of course.  Oh, and a little dream therapy too.

It is actually the dream therapy that provides Skydive with its biggest impact and since the humour is definitely the stronger force here, it is not surprising that Playwright Kevin Kerr (along with Co-Directors Roy Surette and Stephen Drover) milked it for all it was worth.  Sander’s turn at Like A Prayer was short of hysterical and the best performance of a Madonna song since Jim Broadbent’s rendition of Life A Virgin in Moulin Rouge.

Of course, the 80s references peppered throughout the show were another big hit.  From Stretch Armstrong to the Six Million Dollar Man, writer Kevin Kerr, not only used these references for their humour but helped create a world that was simultaneously familiar and successful for both his characters and the audience.

(As an aside, I must admit to having been very pleased that I actually could relate to all of the many pop culture references made during the show.  Great, now I’ve just aged myself…)

Attached to giant apparatus called ES Dance Instruments, James and Daniel spin, loop and dive through the air with the help of four operators.  And while Frazer and Sanders may be the stars of Skydive, without the work of these four operators – Jethelo Espaldon Cabilete, Christopher Frary, Shane Snow and Lee Vincent – the show would only have been half of what it really is.

Working with the actors, and in conjunction with the gravity defying choreography provided by Sven Johansson and Adrian Muir’s lighting, the four operators are seldom seen but when the audience is given a glimpse at the apparatus and those responsible for the movement on stage it is with the same humour that is the real backbone of this show.

Unfortunately, while the performance art piece here is simply mesmerizing, the legitimate theatre part is a tad uneven.  While the humour worked perfectly with the movement on stage, it was the more serious side that sometimes got lost.  We couldn’t help feel a little disappointed in Daniel’s final speech and the connection between the two brothers seemed a little lost at the end.

But don’t let these small criticisms stop you from seeing this very worthwhile show.  At a quick 95 minutes, the cast both on-stage and providing the movement present a high-flying piece of memorable theatre at break-neck speed.

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