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Shumiatcher Sandbox Series Review – Lipstick Smears and Mermaid Tears: Memoirs of a Sinking Soul

October 25, 2013
Norman, a merman, is the main character in the show. A washed-up musician, he spends his day cleaning up the ocean/Photo courtesy of Bruce Vasselin of Designer Photo

Norman, a merman, is the main character in the show. A washed-up musician, he spends his day cleaning up the ocean/Photo courtesy of Bruce Vasselin of Designer Photo

Do yourself a favour. When you go to the Templeton Studio Cabaret to see Lipstick Smears and Mermaid Tears: Memoirs of a Sinking Soul, be sure to arrive at the theatre even earlier than usual. Take a few moments to sit back and relax and view the gorgeous set. Trust me. It will be time well spent.

I say this because the set is more than a set in the conventional sense. It is actually an art installation that was created a short while back by Tamara Unroe and Mariann Taubensee for a gallery in Saskatoon, specifically a number of sculptures that were constructed from found objects – in other words: trash. These items consist of metal, plastic, fabric, paper and so on.

For the purpose of the play, written by Unroe and performed as a one-woman puppet show, the sculptures combine to form a colourful underwater world of plant life, rocks and fish. There’s even a coral reef. This is where the story unfolds, and it’s a story told to us by an elderly merman musician named Norman.

In his prime, Norman was a highly regarded entertainer in a cabaret. His popularity waned, and eventually vanished entirely, with appearance of a beautiful young mermaid. Now he is left to travel the seven seas in a rowboat, casting his nets and cleansing the ocean of garbage.

One day, Norman draws aboard a disposable cardboard coffee cup. But it is no ordinary coffee cup. It is a coffee cup personified as a female. The two fall in love. I won’t ruin it for you by revealing anything else. Suffice it to say the storyline takes the shape of a fable that explores the theme of renewal. It is a fairy tale with a happy ending.

The set is more than a set in the conventional sense… The sculptures combine to form a colourful underwater world of plant life, rocks and fish. There’s even a coral reef.”

As protagonists, Norman and his companion are joined by a supporting cast of shadow puppets that come to life through the magic of projection. Indeed, there is a cinematic quality to this presentation that is evocative of the Nickelodeon. Unroe moves back and forth from stage to screen, and although the segues might easily have been disruptive and distracting, to her credit she makes the transitions with a silky smoothness that allows the story to flow like a current, rippling like a wave, reliable as the tide.

Musical accompaniment is provided in plain sight of the audience by Birger M. Huber on a slide guitar that he constructed himself. The score, if you will, is an original composition, a blend of jazz, blues and country that fits the script like hand in glove because of a quality I can best describe as cerebral and meditative.

Lipstick Smears and Mermaid Tears: Memoirs of a Sinking Soul, a world-premiere production, is directed by Deborah Neville and I urge you to see it. Come early. Stay late.

LIPSTICK SMEARS SCHEDULE

Friday, Oct. 25th, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 26th, 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 30th, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 31st, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 1st, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 2nd, 8 p.m.

All shows are at the Templeton Studio Cabaret in the Globe Theatre (1801 Scarth Street). Tickets are available for all shows. Parking information can be found here.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com.

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