Austin Chronicle Review

January 29th, 2009

‘Our Angle in Heaven’

Our Angle in Heaven is indeed the correct spelling of the title of Maggie Gallant’s solo show. It’s taken from a misspelled sign that one of her eight characters sees alongside the road in the days following Princess Diana’s death. It’s an emblem of the imperfect, idiosyncratic reactions of a broad spectrum of British subjects during a time of perceived national unity and mourning.

Princess Diana’s death doesn’t hold quite the same resonance for an American audience more than 10 years later. However, seeing other ideas spoken at a time when a nation supposedly comes together can be refreshing. And as the United States projects an image of itself as fully unified behind its new president, it can be useful to recall that we are still individuals and not everyone feels the same.

Gallant, originally from England, performs 12 quick monologues by the eight characters, including a tourist-trap opportunist, a Diana “professional impersonator,” and a disinterested Muslim woman who becomes a star overnight when she is accosted on camera by a white woman desperate for common feeling. The show is quintessentially British in that there is little sentimentality. It presents lovely characters and a calm, straightforward performance full of useful curiosities. – E.C.

Sunday, Feb. 1, 4pm, Salvage Vanguard Theater.

Click here for the Austin Chronicle website with reviews of all the show.


Unplugged at the Fringe

January 28th, 2009

Don’t make assumptions. I should have it tattooed on me as a permanent reminder. Not really, because that’s a lot of text, especially in one of those fancy cursive fonts. Might look good in Kanji I suppose. Plus, it would have to be tattooed some place obvious, so I’d see it regularly. Otherwise, if it was on my upper arm or somewhere, it would just help other people not make assumptions and I’m not prepared to give them that kind of leg-up, especially as I know they wouldn’t even be grateful.

Last night I did an excerpt from Our Angle in Heaven at the FronteraFest short fringe. They’d had a cancellation so it was offered out. I’ve missed doing the short fringe this year. I wanted to stage the second half, or B side, of my musical Queen epic ‘Stalking Roger Taylor’ but there wasn’t time.

Compared to the Salvage Vanguard hoopla, it was a bare bones staging. I grabbed a couple of props and costumes from the SVT set and took along 3 music cues to introduce each of the 3 characters. No fancy light or stage changes, just me, a chair and soapbox.

Before going to the theatre I looked at the website to see who else was on the bill (there’s always 5 pieces of up to 25 minutes each). Very bummed to see that Bernadette Nason would be performing. Ok, the name may not mean much to you, but she’s British, lives in Austin, is a renowned storyteller, used to do stand-up, is the go to person for accents, gets great reviews for her acting, etc, etc. Oh and I’ve seen her act in a production of Shirley Valentine and she was very good.

What is it with me and other Brits at this damn festival? First Gemma W and her 2 fabulous shows, now this? Yeah, thanks universe, maybe in future you could just write the lesson I’m supposed to learn on a bit of paper and drop it at my feet rather than try to actually teach me.

I decided to play it cool with Bernadette Nason, even though I’d wanted to meet her for some time. She’d probably try to intimidate me but I’d just do the aloof British thing that I’m apparently known for. Maybe we wouldn’t even speak, we’d just acknowledge each other with a very slight nod of the head.

I’m hanging around backstage when Bernadette comes in, immediately introduces herself and is charming and funny and genuinely interesting to talk to. And she admits that her first response to seeing me on the bill, was ‘typical’. Turns out that she was only there because of another cancellation and was using the show as a warm-up for a story-telling conference she’s heading to Utah for.

We talked a little about Gemma W and Bernadette reiterated what I’ve heard from other people, you know, that she’s lovely, talented, friendly, modest and self-deprecating. Fortunately I’m smart enough to see that these are the very qualities my nemesis would employ to lull me into a false sense of security. Trying to trick me by being a better person than me.

Tonight, my show will follow one of Gemma’s. Back-to-back Brits. We may pass each other in the foyer. I’m prepared.

So the theatre was packed last night, totally sold out. I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to not be responsible for bringing your own audience. My performance went ok, they laughed a little, I stumbled over some lines, but it was intimate and fun and the audience was within spitting distance, quite literally in my character Barry’s case.

There was no real pressure. Normally the Short Fringe is very stressful for me because you only get one chance to get it right. Last night was just a bonus performance. Hopefully it will bring a few extra people to tonight’s and Sunday’s show. Afterwards, one of the Short Fringe crew said that when they knew I was coming, they hoped I’d be doing the other half of Queen/Roger Taylor piece. But that this version of Our Angle in Heaven was more enjoyable than the version I performed last year.

And that’s all that really matters.