“Without comedy, we would just be swimming in bullshit” Megan Phillips exclaims after explaining that comedy is the use a unique perspective of events that adds humour and positivity to what, at the time, were traumatic and overwhelming moments in our life. In the same way one would use a periscope to look out from the water in a submarine, Phillips uses comedy and this show as a look back at a sea of negative emotions.
In her one-woman show Periscope, Megan Phillips (People Suck, Not Enough) explores a night where she chose to banish her negative emotions using the recreational party drug MDMA. This production is directed by Jeff Leard (Jupiter Rebellion) and TJ Dawe (Medicine, Burn Job) and the sound design was created by Leif Ingebrigtsen (Outside Joke, Rapid Fire).
Phillips uses an overarching narrative that is interrupted at times by vignettes or sketches. These are used as exposition into specific parts of the story or to give better insight into who she is as a person and the decisions that have brought her to the moment she is recounting.
On the night of the party she is shedding what she refers to as the “old” Megan and presenting a new, more responsible, cute and flirty Megan. We see this particular evening as being significant to her as it is an opportunity for her to impress important people in the comedy scene after years of being unprofessional and destructive. Negative feelings begin to creep back in, however, and so she pops a tablet to guarantee that she has fun and feels confident all night. This takes her on a journey of self-discovery and allows her to learn valuable lessons that she herein shares with her audience.
Phillips herself delivers the show with charm and enthusiasm, never flinching from the difficult emotions that she is reliving but also conveying a sense of self-awareness that is relatable all the way through. I will admit that I did feel a little out of place due to relative inexperience with drug consumption, but Philips’ themes of striving to be a better person, find meaning for her actions and her raging battle against anxiety, depression, shame and feelings of abandonment all make Periscope accessible to a wide-ranging audience. In fact, by the end of the show I was chanting along and on the edge of my seat, absorbing its message as much as I possibly could.
The show flowed quite well as there were few lulls in the narrative. I always felt that I wanted to know how her adventure would advance; or, I could simply enjoy the comedic sketch or ride along with the moment of positivity she was portraying. It’s evident that Phillips strives to connect with her audience, riffing when they were perhaps less enthusiastic than she wanted them to be (while acknowledging the difficulty of a midnight showing). At the opening performance she thanked us and exclaimed that we had seen the first run-through of the show, which I do not think I would have deduced on my own thanks to the quality of the directing and pacing of the show.
The production is set in a black box style venue and the only item on stage is a hemispherical, colour-changing portable disco ball used as a prop and to set the mood in painting the walls of the theatre. Sound designer Ingebrigtsen’s mix of music and voices also set the scene and the emotion across the show. There were times where the sound was a little overwhelming, but this is no doubt because this was the first showing and levels needed to be adjusted.
Periscope is for anyone who has struggled with anxiety, depression, shame and/or feelings of abandonment. I can’t personally condone drug use but I can appreciate the insights that Phillips reached in her state of intoxication and I believe that most audiences can – and will – learn from the show, all the while laughing and enjoying her exuberant personality.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Alex Gauthier
Nutmeg Productions presents “Periscope”
When: June 8 – 18, 2017
Where: MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels), 3680 Jeanne-Mance
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
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