Volume 91, Issue 47

Thursday, November 20, 1997

stars and strife


Unique theatre with monkeys included

By Laura Dunlop
Gazette Staff

Picture this – a conversation of unlimited possibilities; three monkeys at three typewriters producing the greatest works of literature; and an author with no control over his creations. Just as the title of the production suggests, Bell, Book and Gnome engages the audience in the magical rites of creative inspiration.

Staged in the intimate atmosphere of the Forest City Gallery, three one-act plays focus on the tradition of theatre as a telling of stories and the unique communication between actors and audience. During the course of Bell, Book and Gnome, almost everything takes place with the lights on. Scene changes, the movement of actors and even the construction of sets are not hidden from the audience. Due to these restrictions, the transitions between plays seem somewhat lengthy and distracting. However, this is the aim of the theatre. The audience becomes involved in the process of the presentation and the camaraderie of the actors. And above all, the plays are well worth the wait.

Bell, Book and Gnome not only captures the experience of live theatre, but each of the objects in the title represents a theme in each of the plays. In the first play, Sure Thing, the ringing of a bell signals an alternative course of conversation; in Words, Words, Words, a book or a play, specifically Hamlet, is the goal of the monkeys; and in The Author's Voice, a gnome is an important source of creative inspiration. There is, then, a logic to the progression of the plays as each provides an entertaining and thought-provoking perspective on communication.

Perhaps the most amusing of the plays, however, is based on the old cliché that a certain number of monkeys typing on a certain number of typewriters will reproduce the classic works of literature. Words, Words, Words features three monkeys named Swift, Kafka and Milton who demonstrate the characteristics of these three venerated authors despite their monkey-like habits. By satirizing these writers, the play questions the inspiration for great literature and the respect given, often too freely, to the writer. Visually and intellectually, Word, Words, Words is hilarious.

On an individual level, Dennis Siren gives an excellent performance as Gene, the gnome, in The Author's Voice. Also responsible for the sundrie diversions, or musical interludes during scene changes, Siren is as energetic and humorous as the abused gnome. Julia Webb as Betty in Sure Thing and Swift in ?Words, Words, Words is another highlight of the series as she brings emotion and conviction to her roles.

Overall, Bell, Book and Gnome explores the uniqueness of theatre. Director Catherine Inculet and the King Street Actors' Studio focus on the importance of the creative experience for the actors, writers, artists and the audience. At the conclusion of the incantation, the spell has worked – Bell, Book and Gnome proves to be both an entertaining and an enlightening experience.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997