The Show Must Go On
Five star shows are like that judge in the 1970′s, trying to define obscenity. You know it when you see it, he said. Anyone who was at Jeff Leard’s performance of The Show Must Go On early Monday evening knew it when they saw it, because Leard delivered one of the all-time great fringe performances I’ve ever witnessed.
From the moment Leard appeared on stage, in a pair of ridiculous purple pants, and announced to the crowd at the Artpoint Gallery that since he was five, he wanted to be an actor, someone famous, someone who stood out from everyone else and that is how he ended up in a six month long tour of a childrens’ theatre production of Rumplestiltskin, the audience was roaring.
Maybe it was the perfect juxtaposition of Leard’s cock of the walk, wannabe-rock star persona set against the reality of what it means to be cast in a six month tour of school gymnasiums across Canada.
Maybe it was Leard’s superb script, in which he breaks down, in painfully funny detail, the reality of touring anything in Canada – the endlessness of the prairies, the existential hell of driving for 40 hours next to Lake Superior, the near-death experiences traversing remote mountain roads in northern British Columbia – and also the startling beautiful moments, such as the time he and his two fellow cast members came across a herd of caribou sharing the highway with them.
Or maybe it was just Leard’s wicked comic anecdotes about the little twists in the plot that come with being a children’s performer, including dodging puddles of urine, meeting Northern Alberta schoolteachers with a Rumplestiltskin fetish or performing for the children of bikers who mistakenly break into your fleabag motel room to collect money you don’t owe them.
Leard knows how to own the room better than most solo performers, and his writing is tremendous. He has the actor’s ability to fully commit to whatever he’s trying to sell, and the writer’s ability to detach from that all-in to provide a little context and perspective to the insanity of the events unfolding around him. The Show Must Go On is a gem.