Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Violators Will Be Violated

You know the saying, “Screwed-up people make great art?” Well, it doesn’t get any more screwed-up than Casey Smith’s solo mime-esque show Violators Will Be Violated.

The show consists of 17 short skits; most are set to music, all of which are disturbing, disgusting and absolutely delightful. In other words – it’s so wrong, it’s right. Smith takes the theme of self-destruction to new extremes. Many times throughout the performance there were audience outbursts of “This is so wrong” and “what!?”

Smith unassumingly enters the stage set with a wooden stool and glass of water. He stares at the audience while gulping the water. Then, out of nowhere, he starts screaming which culminates into him having his way with the chair. And this is only the beginning. In the course of 45 minutes he’s a slut, a bulimic ballerina, a man with polio who decapitates himself with an electric knife, a Catholic who crashes his motorcycle, a failure at suicide, who accidentally shoots his dog and himself and dies floating in his own feces. Just to name a few. No topic is off limits and the audience is bombarded with the unimaginable that the demented Smith has somehow imagined.

Smith exudes child-like innocence mixed with perverted depravity. His ideas are so extreme, so far out there, but his skilful use of his body and expressions are so clear that he makes the most outrageous scenarios happen before your eyes. I had one moment where I shifted to see the dog he was petting on the ground, and then realized – there is no dog. It is all in Smith’s splendidly twisted imagination.

The first time I saw this, I was completely inspired. At the time, I was taking a clowning class and in high school I had competed in pantomime. I have always struggled with getting the ideas out of my head and making them understandable. If Smith can cut off a horse’s head, wear it like a mask and then ride off on a bomb รก la Dr. Strangelove style, then I ought to be able to do, well, anything.

Most importantly, it reminded me why I became an actor: pure entertainment. Laughter. As a child I would do impressions of people and mime out stories to make my mom laugh. I even did a slow motion mime skit of the time I was hit by a car (and nearly died). We both thought my skit was hilarious. Sometimes things are so horrible that all we can do is laugh. Somehow I had forgotten that.

Smith’s love for entertaining is evident in the buckets of sweat flung around as he maniacally assaults the stage. His sense of play is infinite and his comedic timing is impeccable. And he is the epitome of the clown who revels in failure. Smith has taken the very human tendency of self-destruction and put it under the microscope of the absurd, insane and disgusting. As the woman who sat next to me said when the show was over, “I was somewhere between laughing and throwing up.” How many actors can say they’ve had that kind of affect on the audience?

Theatre should elicit a reaction. Whether it’s tears or laughter – or in this case – vomit. And it should also be entertaining – where the audience is held captive. And captivated we were.