Montreal Fringe: Kitt & Jane guide us through the ecological apocalypse

0 Posted by - June 16, 2014 - Features, Performance, Reviews

Kitt & Jane: an interactive survival guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future is environmental activist theatre disguised as charming comedy and shadow play.

Created by the team behind the award-winning Little Orange Man, Kitt & Jane sees Kitt, still quietly mourning her grandfather’s death, teamed up with Jane (real name: Lucas) to inaugurate their school’s new gymnasium.

The pair hijack the assembly to warn everyone of a coming environmental apocalypse, a conclusion they have reached after a school field trip reveals that the salmon stocks have collapsed and they embark on a lengthy environmental research project to determine why this has happened, what the consequences are, and what larger issues this points to.

Ingrid Hansen as Kitt and Rod Peter Jr. as Jane are two of the most polished performances I’ve seen at any Fringe. The pair nail their characters’ endearing mix of social awkwardness, earnestness, and confusion about their place in the world. There is an amazing sense of complicity between the two performers, and they consistently hit the right emotional notes for each moment throughout the show, which makes the ending that much more satisfying.

The shadow play is equally impressive. Where other shows would have turned to animation or video projections, the team here has chosen to go old-school with flashlights projecting shadows onto a sheet.

These projections go beyond the perfectly executed live-action scenes: there is a beautiful set of paper cutouts in a bound sketchbook used to create semi-animated backgrounds in one scene, and images drawn onto acetate in another, bringing to mind both the magic lantern and wayang puppet theatre (as well as Lotte Reiniger’s work, if you’re an animation geek).

Kitt & Jane

The use of this old-school technology is perfectly in tune with the underlying nostalgia for a time when so-called progress had not yet wreaked havoc on wildlife or the food supply chain, and our self-destruction seemed much less assured than it does now.

It is this driving force behind the show that comes closest to being its only actual flaw, however. As passionate as Kitt & Jane’s creators clearly are, and as valid and important as all of the issues they touch on are, they take on too much for a one-hour show.

Starting with the collapse of wild salmon stocks, Kitt and Jane go on a research binge that ends with them exploring several different scenarios for the apocalypse they think will occur in the next five years.

While a fair amount of attention is rightfully given to Monsanto and the effects of their GMO seed program on crops, farmers, and bee colonies, these effects are so far-reaching, and the implications and effects of each newly discovered implication and effect keep piling on, until trying to find any one central thesis other than “ACK!” becomes an overwhelming task.

To be fair, the performers themselves are aware of this, and acknowledged it after the show, encouraging anyone with questions or wanting to engage in discussion about any of the issues touched on to tweet them (@kittandjane).

Regardless, between the outstanding performances, writing, visuals, and message, this is most definitely a show to make a point of seeing.

Kitt & Jane: an interactive survival guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future runs until June 21 at the MAI. Buy tickets here. The show will also be performed at the upcoming Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria Fringe Festivals – see the artists’ website for more details.

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