The Show Must Go On: a 2nd opinion: Jeff Leard offers masterful storytelling

The Show Must Go On
Venue 7 - The Playground
Random Samples Collective
Victoria, BC
Written by Jeff Leard
Featuring: Jeff Leard
Warnings: Coarse Language
Continuing its run Tues., June 11 - 9:00 p.m., Wed., June 12 - 7:00 p.m., Thurs., June 13 - 9:00 p.m., Fri., June 14 - 7:00 p.m., Sat., June 15 - 9:00 p.m., Sun., June 16 - 2:00 p.m.
Approximate running time: 60 min

In the black of The Playground’s “theatre” we hear the lilting, nasal voice of Rumpelstiltskin. The lights come up and standing before us is Jeff Leard, wearing a black sleeveless shirt, purple short pants, striped socks, faded converse shoes, smudged eyeliner and a black eye. And he is absolutely charming.

He tells us he’s wanted to be an actor since he was five years old and delves into The Show Must Go On, the story of Jeff’s “perfect year” of touring with a Children’s theatre company.

He starts, like most good storytellers do, with the beginning. On the first day of rehearsals his director tosses a ball in the air. “When you catch this ball, its magical properties will begin to work on you. You will be forced to tell us your name, one true thing about yourself, and what you hope to gain from this experience.” Leard winks at a knowing groan from the audience; this crowd is full of actors, or at the very least, people who took drama classes in high school.

Throughout the rest of the hour Leard plays with and to his audience’s reactions like a well-seasoned pro. He knows which stories are resonating with us and his comedic timing is impeccable.

Leard’s caricatures are wonderfully crafted. From Mandy, his fake-vegetarian cast mate to the baseball bat wielding drug lords that mistake the troupe’s dingy hotel room for that of a rival dealer, Leard brings a fire to each of them that lends itself perfectly to the format of this show.

It’s funny. Really funny. And there is truth behind it all - in origin and performance – and that makes it even funnier and sweeter and in the end, very impactful.

My companion remarked as we exited The Playground, “This is an actor’s show.” As much as I agree, I can’t recommend The Show Must Go On enough to absolutely everyone. Leard’s storytelling is masterful. The hilarity of candy heart-coloured puke and Rumpelstiltskin fetishes makes the few somber and bittersweet moments of the show all the more poignant.

From stolen luggage to the 21 hours spent driving around Lake Superior, Leard recounts each anecdote as if it were his own. His script seamlessly weaves this collection of stories into a wonderfully delightful narrative that left me reminded as to why it is we “do theatre.”

In spite of the low (or non) paying jobs, the long hours, the stress, the less-than-ideal work conditions, the vomiting, the forced close-quarters and the absolute ludicrousness of it all, we do it because it’s worth it; because we love it.

Last Saturday night The Show Must Go On became my first must-see recommendation of London Fringe 2013. Do yourself a favour and let Jeff Leard spin you his tales while you have the chance.

/   4

Kaitlyn Rietdyk is a London-based coffee-slinger by day, actor/director/designer by night. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Empty Space Productions and is currently appearing in Headshots and Healing Potions at the London Fringe Festival.