Voix de Ville Extravagonzo: An imaginative first step into something new

Two Zookeeper Constables trying to stop a leak in “L’évasion (The Escape)” by Carla and Danielle Mackie in Voix de Ville / Maud Rostaing

 

Voix de Ville Extravagonzo is a new, classic Canadian vaudeville-inspired celebration of Niagara art with a focus on local creators put on by the Niagara Artists Centre at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. The first showing was November 18 with the next two the following evening. Both nights culminated in an after party. In true vaudeville fashion, the show was overwhelming and over-the-top.

Every individual detail and element of Voix de Ville was meticulously taken care of. The wearable art that comprised the costuming of the characters was truly beautiful and exemplified the creativity of local artists.

The show was a vaudeville-style circus of performance with a hilarious host, an acrobat on silk, animals, yoga and the Underworld. The aesthetic of the show was incredibly charming and the use of a screen, old-school projector and laminate displays worked together to create a unique atmosphere.

The evening was tied together with the brilliant MC work of Bruce McCulloch and the fast-paced, old-timey sounding instrumental work of Canadian legends, Shadowy Men On a Shadowy Planet. The show was witty, jumping through joke after joke, after feat of strength, after musical number after dance routine and culminating, the way everything will eventually culminate, in an imagined Hell.

One of the highlights of the night was “Le Nazz (The Nazz)”, a one-act play. The skit was a spoken word piece by Tom Calagna, who played Lord Buckley, proclaiming to the audience in cool cat jazz talk the story of “The Nazz,” the coolest cat of them all, Jesus Christ. He was spitting and dripping ultra-cool prophecy into the attentive, and a little rowdy, crowd.

I also very much enjoyed all of the pieces by Alyson Doyle, a collection of masks and lanterns that often depicted animal heads, each to be worn by clever actors. They are both whimsical and poignant as she probes audiences to contemplate the struggles of “the constant conflicts of being human”, as described in her artist’s statement for “Atomic Chicken”.

Voix de Ville was born into the space where NAC’s late, very successful, STRUTT Wearable Art Show used to occupy. Voix de Ville was also heavily marketed as “The Evolution of STRUTT”. Voix de Ville was different. STRUTT was edgy and young, with an ever-evolving cast of artists and attendees. Voix de Ville felt mature and unique, a separate event as opposed to an evolution of STRUTT.

Voix de Ville seemed more to be a celebration of all of the art existing in Niagara right now, its focus falling on artists and art-appreciators who have been in the area doing amazing things for a long time. It was a great show, but it does not fill the void STRUTT’s ending left.

I had the opportunity to speak with artistic mother-daughter duo, Carla and Danielle Mackie, about the show and their piece in it, “L’évasion (The Escape).”

“We actually attended our first STRUTT in 2010 when it was held in the Brock University Cafeteria,” said Carla. “Danielle and I walked in, and the cafeteria had been transformed into this shining silver spectacle — there was a runway down the centre, and our minds were totally blown — captivated. We both said to each other, ‘we have to be a part of this’.”

During the following year, 2011, the Mackies got involved and continued to play a part in the show’s content and production in 2013 and 2014. They also participate in NAC’s annual “Small Feats” gallery sale.

“In the springtime, two capybaras escaped from the High-Park Zoo — it was on the news every day,” said Carla on the inspiration for their piece in Voix de Ville. “Danielle and I were completely captivated by their supposed ‘escape’ because they’re just doing their capybara thing, but everyone calls them ‘escaped’ and it was interesting how elusive they could be — how no one could catch them.”

”So we were wishing that the capybaras had their freedom but knowing the environment and how they could possibly parish in the Wintertime,” explained Carla. “So, of course, we knew that they would have to be captured to stay safe, but just the idea of them running free and being capybaras was hilarious.”

The play follows the two capybaras, Bonnie and Clyde, escaping from two zookeeper-constables, taking the steamboat ferry from Toronto to Port Dalhousie and eventually evading capture by becoming one with the other carousel anim

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