Young Company, Garratt bring 'HC Kid' to life - Aug. 23, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This year’s Blyth Festival Young Company production of HC Kid was delightfully unique and weird, which is exactly the way it was supposed to be.
To review this show I had to mine my memory to remember “Fox You”, a Coldplay song from 2005 and then Google a different song called “Gimme Pizza” from an old Olsen Twins movie that centres around a slumber party. Those kinds of obscure references often only live in the confines of the Young Company creative process.
Emma Marcy of Seaforth – the star of last year’s one-woman Young Company show, From Sallows to Selfies – West Larabee of Lucknow and Annika Balzer of Auburn were the three artists on stage for this year’s installment of the program. They began the process under the direction of Blyth Festival alumnus Curtis te Brinke, but were led by Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt by the time the show hit the Phillips Studio stage.
HC Kid was billed as a unique, Huron County ghost story that would explore the realities of being a young person in Huron County, touching on intergenerational ideas and the differences between growing up “then” as opposed to now.
In the end, however, Marcy, Larabee and Balzer chose to focus on an amusing – if that’s the right term to use – look at their own mortality. Whether they were rhyming off “awesome” ways to die, murdering stuffed bears or discussing local ties to the great beyond, the subject of death was always the focus of these young artists in the show.
The three actors, who also created HC Kid themselves, framed the show around planning their own funerals. They explored everything from casket selection to funeral attire and the eulogy and – most importantly – music.
After one of the actors would hear the other two eulogize them, the “deceased” had to settle on the perfect funeral song, which was followed by a dance number.
Balzer decided her ideal final song would be “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, while Marcy chose a song by Miami-based rapper Pitbull.
Larabee’s song selection was a little different, seeing as how he chose to forego the casket and be cremated, a choice gaining popularity in recent years.
However, with all of the actors having a connection to local pizzerias, Larabee hoped that his ashes would be baked into a pizza and that his friends would then eat that pizza.
This, of course, is where “Gimme Pizza” comes in. “Gimme pizza, P-I-Z-Z-A,” go the lyrics and all three actors act out making their own special pizza. Larabee’s remains may or may not have been included.
The actors did a great job of interacting with their audience members. The front row of seats included couches and chairs, which brought a level of intimacy to the show between the actors and those in the front row. In fact, those audience members were lucky enough to be involved in the cast’s take on a Build-a-Bear heart ceremony for the show’s pet stuffed bear, Bearemy. (If you remember my “murdering stuffed bears” mention from earlier in this piece, unfortunately things don’t end that well for ol’ Bearemy.)
Marcy, Larabee and Balzer all did a great job getting their stories across and clearly enjoyed working with one another. It was obvious to those in the audience that the three actors had a good time collaborating on the show, and that goodwill shone through in the finished product.
When I started this review, I said the show was delightful and weird, which is exactly how a Young Company production should be. That’s because the Young Company shows aren’t designed to sell tons of tickets or please everyone who might make their way into the audience. The program is about encouraging youth to explore their creative side and write and perform a play that is entirely theirs.
The cast performed HC Kid three times at the Phillips Studio last week from Aug. 16-18. For more information on the program, visit the Blyth Festival’s website at www.blythfestival.com.