At various locations until September 14, 2014
Posted September 10, 2014
The Revue Stage sets up expectations of professionalism and polish that few Fringe shows can meet. The Chariot Cities, written by Harrison Mooney with music by Bryan Binnema, falls into that category. In a smaller, funkier venue, it might work a whole lot better. It’s an interesting but familiar story that feels as if it comes right out of the Kate McGarrigle/Loudon Wainright saga – although there are probably legions of singer/songwriters whose personal lives are similarly screwed up: addiction, infidelity, bad parenting, exhaustion and loneliness. “You can quit your band. You can’t quit your family”, says Jack Stackhouse (Jeff Gladstone) but until his wife Wendy (Alison Lynne Ward) gets terminally ill, this family is completely dysfunctional. And probably will be so again. Siblings Julian (Steven Greenfield) and Beata (Shantini Klaassen) are at each other’s throats unless they’re snorting coke together. Seven songs make up the song list; the best of these is “Be At Home in Me”; the worst – and quite tasteless, although Jack is tasteless – is No Bleeding on the Bus, a reference to Beata experiencing her first menstruation while she’s on the road with good ol’ dad. The Chariot Cities has been in the works for a decade; it’s not quite there yet.
Photo: Jeff Gladstone in The Chariot Cities
When jem rolls gets on a roll, it’s a wild, word-bending, word-celebrating, word-exploding ride. It’s a party in your head. He’s the poetry guy from the UK – actually from Camberley, Surrey, which he describes as a “shite-hole” from which all children wish to escape, although if you Google ‘Camberley real estate’ you’ll find houses there that make Shaughnessy look positively shabby. rolls is a lanky, masterful wordsmith with a well-tuned sense of irony, outrage and the ridiculous: “a Starbucks so big it had another Starbucks inside it.” He despairs of a world changing so quickly we are already “replacing the replacements” and “even the future isn’t up to date”. Best of all is his Poem About Writing Poetry in which he accuses words of taking over. “Luck”, for example, “calls itself Serendipity” and the nouns all want to be capitalized as they are in German. Next thing you know, the verbs will want capitals, too. Some words, he says, leave and get jobs in banks leaving him with the leftovers, the unemployed words. He insults Canadians so cleverly it doesn’t hurt a bit: “Canada took two languages, broke them both and refused to give them back.” Would that all poetry could be this energetic, this much fun, this scorching, this relevant.