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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken is a zany idea gone awry

This strange concert quickly spirals into a disjointed mess

L’orchestre d’hommes-orchestres’ New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken is unlike anything you’ve seen before, complete with yodelling, chicken cackles, and highly unconventional cooking. It is also, quite literally, a big mess.

Gabrielle Bouthillier and Andrée Bilodeau star as the Cackle Sisters, characters inspired by the real-life DeZurik Sisters, a pair of yodelling queens from the 1930s. They are accompanied by four musicians.

The performance feels like a strange kitchen concert. The stage is set with numerous mysterious items and dozens of instruments. Before the singing begins though, steam is already rising from the stage. As the various scenes play through the 75-minute show it  initially seems they are all connected to the goal of cooking a chicken, and an entire meal to go with it. But New Cackle Sisters soon spirals into a disjointed mess.

There is no denying L’orchestre d’homme-orchestres is bold, but in this race of a show they manage to set themselves up for failure, putting risk at the forefront.

Will the food turn out? Will this strange invention actually align to squeeze out the ketchup? Can they yodel and simultaneously cut up all these onions? It is unlikely to turn out the way they want every time. Or maybe it rarely will. This was made clear when they struggled to peel the potatoes with their drill, or were unable to hit any potatoes with their axe in “potato baseball”. While failure can be funny and engaging, in this case it is just stressful.

Often it is hard to engage in the games that are being played onstage, as the audience cannot see the intricate things being done. There is an attempt to video the action, but the pictures are unclear and ultimately enhances a sense of confusion.

On top of this, the music starts to feel secondary to the food antics. Bilodeau struggled on opening night to remember lyrics, and her singing had to be carried by Bouthillier.

One of the initial highlights of the show is the smell of cooking chicken as it wafts through the theatre. A delicious odor, that is, until the smell of hot dogs takes over.

Despite its issues though, there are some great ideas, including a multiple hands scene and the group number “Little Liza Jane”. And while the musicians do a strong job playing a variety of instruments, the music becomes repetitive with only a few songs in different genres.

But what ultimately begins as an inventive concept of cooking a meal while performing the Cackle Sisters’ music soon turns into confusion, unclear vocals, and some questionable food the audience is hesitant to eat.

New Cackle Sisters could use some reigning in and more rehearsal. While this one is definitely a wild ride, don’t get too egg-cited about it.

New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken created and produced by L’orchestres d’homme orchestres. Presented by The Cultch. On stage at The York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until April 6. Visit for tickets and information.

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