Arts

Photo: John Gundy.

Sex T-Rex performs scripted play at Academic Hall for the first time in five years

With boundless energy and enthusiasm galore, the raucous theatre troupe of Sex T-Rex roared into the University of Ottawa’s Academic Hall on Aug. 25, bringing with them their two riotous shows, CALLAGHAN! and The Wings of the Butterfly and SwordPlay: A Play of Swords. This is their first visit to Ottawa since their improvised iteration of CALLAGHAN! at the Ottawa Fringe Festival five years ago.

The night began with the now-scripted CALLAGHAN!, an action-adventure live movie, with villains, exotic locales, high-stakes chases, and a hero with a tragic past, all portrayed deftly by a cast of five, who jumped between portraying henchmen to miming Mayan ruins, captivating the audience’s imagination and drawing them into the rush of the story.

Jack Callaghan, the protagonist, is the dashing archaeological adventurer, called in by his hale and hearty pal Sal to go to Guatemala and investigate the movements of the power-hungry villain, Dr. Von Handerstopp. Animated fight scenes rounded out the zany, cartoony comedy of the show, with the troupe not being afraid to employ slow motion for the use of comedy, or drama, and sometimes both.

After a short break, the second half of the double bill, SwordPlay: A Play of Swords rolled into motion. After a frame narrative reminiscent of The Princess Bride, portraying a kid with a cold being kept company by his grandfather, the audience was swept into the story of a 1990s video game.  

The tale followed the fates of the two knights Barnabas and Salvatore—or, as he prefers to be called, Santa—as they mourned their lost comrade, and swashbuckled their way to justice, in a bromance that might have just a hint of romance.

“These shows weren’t designed to be a double bill,” said Seann Murray, a cast member on set. “CALLAGHAN! is our first scripted show and then SwordPlay is our fourth scripted show, so there’s a fair space of time between them but there are a lot of parallels that run between the shows.”

Murray added that, for the purpose of this viewing, they added in some jokes to ensure that the back to back shows ran smoothly.

The show kept the audience on their toes with the use of paper pixel art cut outs, jumping from the occasional literary reference, to the simple and outrageous humour at the prospect of having to eat a lemon.

Murray made it clear that they aren’t afraid of trying new things in their routines.

“We mine the genres as heavily as we can for all their tropes and cliches and things like that, so it’s an interesting study to see the shows and see how many of the points of reference you can pick up from the genres,” he said, adding that they sometimes flip genres on their heads as they have done with SwordPlay: A Play of Swords.

“It’s not a show of the boy getting the girl in the end necessarily.”

Some of the other genres they’ve experimented with include westerns, post apocalyptic, and science fiction—their next venture is to dabble in sports.

Both shows were funny, physical, and not afraid to call themselves out.

Kaitlin Morrow, another cast member in the show met her fellow company members at Toronto’s George Brown Theatre School, and hopes to return to Ottawa in the future.

“It’s hard to do one show, and leave,” she said. “When we come back we’ll hopefully do it under a larger umbrella (like) a festival or something. I think there is an audience here, we’re just new to it.”

For current or aspiring theatre students, Morrow pointed out that “theatre can sometimes be really hard to access, and sometimes really dense or boring, and not all theatre is.”  

“We feel like what we do is a good gateway to theatre”  she shares, adding that with their shows “it’s usually a young, excited crowd, and what (they) do is riddled with pop culture references that are modern and ‘now’,” making them ideal for university students.

The Sex T-Rex World Tour, which will cover the eastern half of Canada, already offered shows in Montreal and Fredericton and will have its final stop in Halifax from Sept. 2 to 11 for the Atlantic Fringe Festival.