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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: Loon is a masterclass in fine movement

There is just something about it; something that coaxes you into remaining absolutely present in each moment. There are no words in the Wonderheads presentation of Loon, but perhaps that’s the key. In a scant fifty minutes, the Wonderheads succeed in pulling back the curtain on our modern obsession with self-awareness and irony to allow a little bit of something sweet, nostalgic, and whimsical to shine through.

[pullquote]Loon is a unique show, perfect for both families and adults, and one which leaves you with a sense of having been transported to a more beautiful time.[/pullquote]Loon is a tragi-comic love story about a man who falls for the moon after all other options have left him behind; family, friends, and potential partners remain absent. While the premise may sound childlike, the layers of love, melancholy, loss, and innocence are woven so tightly that the resulting tapestry is complex and overwhelming with the sweet simplicity of its silent emotions.

Using their signature full-face mask, the Wonderheads rely on evocative lighting, the finesse of comedia dell’arte movement, and a well honed musical accompaniment to expose the full range of emotion, and what a range it is. Kate Braidwood (Francis) is a master of small movements, perfectly encapsulating both the character and the emotion with little more than the tilt of a giant head. Her manipulation of the mask carefully highlights and shadows the lines and ridges of the mask making it appear to move and react like the pliable features of a beloved uncle. The emotive resonance of Braidwood’s work is audible, resulting in an audience that coos “aw” at regular intervals.

The minimal set design and more caricaturized comedic bits (dating service, I’m looking at you) provide an edge of nostalgia that enhances, rather than detracts from the piece. The humour feels familiar yet removed, like an old British stop-motion animation watched through lidded eyes on an early school day morning. This sentimentality acts like a backbone to a show that pulls on the nostalgia for times past, the loss of times present, and the hope for times future to ensure the audience remains rapt until the very last moment.

After an award winning performance of Grim and Fischer: A deathly comedy in full face mask at The Cultch last year, and now this wonderful artistic egg of a show, Portland-based Wonderheads mark themselves out as a company to watch. Loon is a unique show, perfect for both families and adults, and one which leaves you with a sense of having been transported to a more beautiful time.

Their newest show, The Middle of Everywhere was awarded Best of Fest in Saskatoon, and received the Favourite Visual Theatre/Puppetry Award in Victoria this summer. Here’s hoping it comes to Vancouver some day soon.

Loon written by Wonderheads and performed by Kate Braidwood. Directed by Andrew Phoenix. A Wonderheads presentation. On stage at The Cultch Historic Theatre (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until November 23. Visit for tickets and information.

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