The Hidden Cameras and friends help us understand theatre.
For the album that was a marked departure in tone, the Hidden Cameras’ theatrical interpretation of Origin:Orphan at this year’s SummerWorks was appropriately dramatic, matching moments of dark desolation with splashes of the ecstatic baroque-punk weirdness more reminiscent of the band’s formative years. Too bad, then, that it didn’t quite work.
Thursday was the opening night of SummerWorks, and the first performance of Origin:Orphan, and it showed—the usually airtight band sounded big, if a tiny bit off their mark, though that could have had something to do with the their simultaneous participation in surreal dramatizations. The show kicked off with unblinkingly intense ringleader Joel Gibb curled up alongside his gear-churning cast of orphans, and for the rest of the night, Gibb’s presence and leadership could be felt both onstage and just off it, his spastic dancing acting as a bringer of freedom and community. Sort of exactly like Ren in Footloose. Which actually makes so, so much sense.
Plead, orphans (at top)! And it’s okay—those are that kid’s parents, we think (bottom).
Playing the villain to Gibb’s ray of sunshine was Buddies in Bad Times veteran and mayoral candidate Keith Cole. Subversive and funny and able to flip from the driest deadpan stare to a twisted, creepy Joker grin, even his strict authoritarian character embraced his inner light and his orphans, as they outfitted him in a technicolour frock, platinum-blonde wig, eyeshadow, and showed off his killer long legs in a pair of heels for the final few dance numbers. The mostly faceless orphans were showing their dancing fatigue by the end, so the final slow jam “Silence Can Be A Headline”—the only song that involved any real participation from the audience, as some people were pulled up to waltz both joyously and awkwardly—sent the show out with more a whimper than a bang. But then there’re only so many “Underage” moments (which featured the most elaborate footwork of the night) to bounce to.
Through the drab-to-Pleasantville scope of the show, it was easy to become entranced by the moments of dark and isolation, and just as easy to forget that there was anything more than a little dance party going on some of the time. Much like the problematic spots of the album, Origin:Orphan on stage was a relatively ambitious concept that didn’t always manage to reach the proper highs or lows in execution.
The second and final Hidden Cameras performance happens tonight at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A), at 10 p.m., $10.
Photos by David Topping/Torontoist.