“Crustaceous but vulnerable” is how Chase Hiebert describes a character in Art of the Eight Limbs, a play he is directing for the Victoria Fringe Festival, which kicks off this weekend.
Art of the Eight Limbs, a monologue play written by local playwright and UVic student Kat Taddei, features three characters bound together by a murder committed sixteen years previously. It’s gritty, it’s dark, and its promotional materials warn: Don’t get comfortable.
The show already has accolades from the Adelaide Fringe Festival—it premiered there in February. So how does a play get from a UVic writing workshop to a stage in Australia?
Taddei, who is about to graduate from UVic’s writing program, had only written a few pages when Blair Moro, a UVic Theatre grad producing new work in Australia, approached her wanting to commission a play. “I was sending him parts of the script as he was casting it,” said Taddei.
Now that it’s already been produced, though, and gone through numerous drafts, Taddei, whose show Two won Favourite New Play at last year’s Victoria Fringe, has been able to take a step back and give Hiebert space, which he’s been happy to take.
“Kat writes compelling stories and creates characters that capture parts of our humanity in a fresh way,” said Hiebert, whose previous directing credits include productions for UVic’s Student Alternative Theatre Collective, Theatre SKAM, and Victoria Fringe 2015’s Daughter of Turpentine, penned by UVic MFA grad Leah Callen. “These characters are not the people that you would see on a stage generally, and that’s important,” he said.
Social relevance and diversity of representation make the work of many young emerging playwrights distinct from less contemporary work, said Taddei, but many commercial theatre companies overlook their importance. “We don’t often think of theatre as being dominated by the same forces as other industries, but it really is,” she said.
“We’re not investing in new voices, and that’s where a lot of exciting work is happening,” said Hiebert.
In that vein, Art of the Eight Limbs, starring Lucy Sharples, Alex Judd, and Arielle Permack, has two characters written as gender neutral and one written as male. To make things even more interesting, their names are Red, White, and Blue.
“I think each character leans toward, if not a gender, either towards femininity or masculinity,” said Hiebert. “So I tried to cast against that.” He hoped that actors would be able to delve more deeply into people less similar to themselves. “There’s a common humanity that binds the actors to their characters.”
Though it may be lacking in more mainstream theatre offerings, the Fringe is saturated in new work written by, produced by, and starring young artists, this year including Driftwood by Hawk Mom Productions, Birdwatching by First N Last, and The Quiet Environmentalist by Saturna Theatre.
Taddei’s theatre company, Vino Buono, will produce a pop-up show for Theatre SKAM and Taddei’s YouShow for Intrepid Theatre later this year.
As for Art of the Eight Limbs, audiences will be in for, above all else, an engaging narrative, said Hiebert. Plus, it seems, a healthy dose of reflection on gender, loneliness, and empathy.
A balance of escape and reality: just what we look for when we go to the theatre.
Art of the Eight Limbs plays at the Roxy Theatre on Aug. 26, 28, 30, 31, Sept. 1, and 4. For showtimes and details visit intrepidtheatre.com.