James & Jamesy in the Dark Literally, and Somewhat Figuratively

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The Review: Soho Playhouse’s James and Jamesy in the Dark

By Ross

It’s a dark but not stormy night inside the Soho Playhouse where the celebrated comedians James & Jamesy, played by the adorable Alastair Knowles and Aaron Malkin drop down, one by one into the black space from above, with chair in hand. Each one illuminates the small stark stage with light from above their white faces, span their horizon with an innocent and nervous flair. In this intriguing and quirky theatrical production plopped down in New York from England, James & Jamesy in the Dark, directed with a playful ear for sound and movement by David MacMurray Smith brings whimsy and charm to this small stage, shining with a pure white light dose of sweetness and a funny depth of profundity. It’s clear we are witnessing the creation, of love and engagement through the eyes of two adorable aliens, and not the earth-bound ones that the dastardly Republicans want us to be afraid of. But the gentle-eyed hopefully ones from a far off place where hate and anger don’t exist.
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In the dark squareness of an unlit stage, two bright light creatures find one another, and are, at first, afraid.  But over the course of this quick 70 minutes of  creative wonderment, they look towards the future and out beyond themselves, engaging in an innocent attachment tickled with a hopeful delight to learn more about their role in the advancement to the next level. Each drops down with a chair and what appears to be a similar task that they need to complete, but their encounter with each other throws them head, (or lamp)-first into a physical and sharp orchestration of sound and manipulation. The two are masters at this dynamic, keeping us tuned in and playfully conducted for the most part.  I did, at moments, find myself slipping into sleepiness and distraction, especially during the very dark passages of repetition and relief, but overall I was entranced by their discourse and demeanor. It never blew my mind but I was caught off guard by its capacity for playfulness. They invite us all to join in with their sense of discovery and play along on their voyage of vocal advancement. We can’t help but to be exhilarated and tickled by the asking of the bigger questions of life; “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?“.  Without barely saying a word, their antics and charm quietly engage and enlighten. And even though James & Jamesy in the Dark offer no real answers to these age-old questions, the ingenuity and precise grasp of theatrical capabilities are both child-like and wonderful, all rolled up in an “ET go home” moment of clarity. Welcome to New York, James & Jamesy. Don’t feel you have to rush home, or fear ICE, just be ready to turn off your imaginative head lights and get lost in the dark if they come looking.
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The Company

James & Jamesy is a Canadian performance company comprised of Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles in partnership with David MacMurray Smith.

Together they create multi-award winning theatrical performances typified by extended characters, rich emotion, and fantastical trips of the imagination. Their shows are investigations in participatory theatre that merge physical comedy, clown, and improvisation to create theatrical environments where audiences feel invited and compelled to participate.

Since 2012, James & Jamesy shows have sold over 60,000 tickets and been performed over 500 times across Canada, the United States, and the UK. Their accessibility and wide appeal is evident by numerous 5-Star reviews and 21 Best-of-Fest awards. Regarded as “Legends” (Montreal Gazette), “Fringe stalwarts” (Winnipeg Free Press) and “One of the most popular fringe duos ever” (CBC), James & Jamesy have firmly claimed a place in the ranks of contemporary theatre.

Aaron Malkin – “James” – Performer, Co-Writer

A life of Biology and Education took a quick turn when Aaron discovered live performance and stopped fabricating reasons to not pursue it.

Aaron passionately supports the discovery of full self-expression and delight. His background in outdoor & experiential education, physical theatre, dance, and visual effects have led to international performance and teaching collaborations that often bridge mediums with delight and play as the central theme.

Alastair Knowles – “Jamesy” – Performer, Co-Writer

It was an impulse that compelled this Commerce graduate to enrol in David MacMurray Smith’s clown program Fantastic Space Enterprises five-minutes before the class started back in 2006. Now, Alastair is dedicated to the creation and presentation of performance that emphasizes impulse, connection, and performance honesty to build relationships between performers, audiences, and communities.

David MacMurray Smith – Director, Co-Writer

David is an independent educator with over 40 years of experience in the areas of Theatre, Clown, Mime, Ballet, and Opera. He is a movement specialist and an experienced counsellor who has drawn on his broad range of experience and sources to develop a body-centred, humanist approach to personal and professional development through creative studies in human performance. He was head instructor at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre School and movement director for the Music Theatre and Opera programs at the Banff Centre for the Arts. David was program director for the two-year Ensemble Training Program of Full Circle: First Nations Performance and is currently on faculty at Douglas College. He is also a founding faculty member of a two-year certificate program in Expressive Arts Therapy through Langara College Continuing Education, and runs his own studio, Fantastic Space Enterprises, which he founded in 1995.

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