WYRD: A MUSICAL UNFAIRYTALE
Where: Metro Studio Theatre, 1411 Quadra St.
When: Thursday, May 18, through Saturday, May 20
Tickets: $43.93 (incl. taxes and fees) from eventbrite.ca
If you’re someone who is looking to build from the ground up a musical that balances real-life horrors with fairytale elements, including hags and bogs, call Britt Small. She’s the ideal collaborator.
Small, the Atomic Vaudeville co-founder and former Ride the Cyclone director, has never met a challenge she wasn’t eager to approach headfirst. That skillset proved invaluable during the genesis of Wyrd: A Musical Unfairytale, a satirical but heartfelt co-production between Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville and Larrikin Entertainment, a non-profit theatre company based in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Small calls Wyrd a slice of “magical realism,” in that it deals with misogyny, relationship abuse, and gender-based violence in slightly absurd ways (such as a gas-lighting game show, for one example.) Colourful characters include a bunch of hags who live in a bog and offer advice and support to a woman on a journey to find herself.
The woman becomes connected to the community of hags, and begins to heal thanks to their friendship. But if you read between the lines, there’s a stealth-like comedic streak. “It’s a very funny piece,” Small said. “What we wanted to do was take a lot of our trauma and see if we could transform it into comedy, but show real knowledge as well. When we performed it in Whitehorse, the audience went nuts for it.”
The show, with Small directing, will have its B.C. premiere this week with four performances at Metro Studio Theatre, starting tonight. She is hoping the piece has a long life, and while there are some changes that needed to be made, “it’s in really good shape. People will be really interested in it.”
Larrikin co-founder Katherine McCallum met Small in 2018, during one of Atomic Vaudeville’s wild cabaret nights in Victoria. They struck up a long-distance friendship, out of which grew a series of cabaret nights staged by Larrikin (with input from Small) in Whitehorse. That’s when the seeds for Wyrd were planted two years ago, according to Small. “Kat had an idea for creating a new musical theatre piece, and thought that I would be a good fit for it.”
The pandemic was a blessing, in one sense. It provided vast amounts of time and freedom during the creation process, which is not always a given. Small relished the opportunity to work on the project with a team of female-identifying or non-binary collaborators, including more than a dozen writers and songwriters. “Everyone who participated, their voices are in this show in some form.”
The piece was culled together from a series of loose, freeform writing sessions — Small said the creators “said yes to everything” during the writing process — but it took shape with assistance from University of Victoria graduate Meg Braem, a Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama nominee. She helped give the writing shape before it was considered complete, Small said.
Braem was careful not to remove the black humour and satire, despite a number of first-person stories of abuse being included in the book. That tricky balance (honed to perfection in Ride the Cyclone) may very well be the selling point for unsuspecting audiences and adventuresome presenters.
“There has been some interest from presenters, certainly in Alberta and Vancouver as well. But it’s always about word catching on, and people sharing about it.”