Review by Brian M. Carroll
65 min | Comedy | General
Richard Harrington & Chris Kauffman’s Cabaret Terrarium is a curious beast. Like Chris Hauffman’s Nhar Moves, the Ottawa Fringe program classifies both shows as general admission. The Fringe web site lists both shows as age appropriate for 4+. Cabaret Terrarium is scheduled for the kid friendly time of1PM on Sunday.
But opening night was at the kid UN-friendly hour of 9:30PM. The audience was all adults. Harrington and Kauffman negotiated their times with the Fringe, so they meant for Cabaret Terrarium to face some all adult audiences.
The Cabaret refers to one of the characters, Gustave. He’s lost his memory, but slowly remembers that he is a cabaret singer, from Belgium. As cabaret fare, Gustave is pretty tame, appropriate to the general rating.
Gustave is a stone-faced, physically awkward, heavily accented cabaret performer whose stiff performances of popular songs like Hotel California had most of the audience (including me) guffawing.
Or rather we would have guffawed, but for the audience participation instructions. Worry not folks, this ain’t Red Bastard, Ask Aggie, or even Keeper. No one’s asking you to bare your soul, reveal secrets, or kiss the performers. All you have to do is play a wooden frog and stick, a percussion instrument that makes the sound of a frog croaking. Have fun.
Instead you must replace your laughs (and sighs) with frog croaks. The crowd was mostly able to follow instructions, but a few guffaws did still escape.
Gustave is accompanied by “pantomeemist” Nhar, who mimes the action of the songs and the storyline of the show, with much chuckling, oops I mean frog croaking, from the audience.
The audience clearly enjoyed playing their instruments, responding to both comical and hammily dramatic moments in the show.
But I felt there was something missing:
Children. Older children. Like the 9-year-old and the 11-year-olds I read to weekly.
I saw Nhar Moves at an afternoon matinee, where the children in the audience clearly loved Nhar and the characters he portrayed. And I delighted with them. I wished I was reviewing Cabaret Terrarium at a children friendly hour.
BUT. A word of caution to parents. Unlike Nhar Moves which is completely kid friendly, Cabaret Terrarium has content that you should consider in deciding whether your children are old enough. The Fringe program hints at Gustave’s “shady past”. There’s a (toy) gun on stage, and the script has violence, death (and redemption). A higher age rating would have been more appropriate.
Most of the adult audience had a good time. But I suggest you go when there will be kids.
Opening night was a sellout; get tickets early.
Cabaret Terrarium by Harrington & Kauffman is playing at Arts Court Courtroom on Saturday, June 29 at 8:00pm and 10:00pm; Sunday, June 30 at 1:00pm. Tickets are $10.