As Ken Godmere breathlessly thanked all his team that created the soundscape of his new show - where he only utters one single word - he could scarcely contain his excitement, his immense gratitude and the thrill of this first performance of his Ottawa Fringe appearance. It was greeted with a spontaneous explosion of emotion and pleasure by an audience that hung on every movement, every facial twitch, every recorded shuffle, ring, knock, tick, rustle snap, scrape and vocal sound that filled the space of the capacity crowd in the Leonard Beaulne studio. Standing ovations have become so commonplace on the Ottawa stage that they no longer mean anything, but in this case, it meant everything. It was real! And Godmere deserved it.
Godmere is a master mimic and mime! We always realized that he has a very personal body language but here it went much further. Both came into play here as he recreated, in the proverbial empty space, his own little world of an aging grandpa who has increasing difficulty navigating the reality around him. His meticulous orchestration of gestures is accompanied by an equally meticulous orchestration of sounds that construct around him not only the furniture, the size of his apartment, his confusion but they also reveal his relationship with the outside world: his daughter, his grandchild, the salesman at the door, the computer keyboard, the busdriver, the world of the toystore and people passing in the street.
He shows us how he is becoming more and more isolated precisely because he is slowing down in a world that does not realize what is happening to him. This decision to perform without speaking not only forces him to focus his performance on his body, but it also shows us to what extent, words are really superfluous when everyone else is only listening to his / her own words.
The actor completely transforms himself. Makeup is part of it but he changes his whole body. There is an element of caricature but not carried to the extent that we lose a sense of his existence as a real person.
Everything is perfectly controlled. His timing is impeccable, given physical presence by his shuffle, by the physical rhythm rippling through that slightly drooped back. His eyes, his mouth become expressions of intense emotion, of twinkling moments of fun, of fleeting moments of frustration, of intense moments of disappointment, He doesn’t need words. His body has an enormous physical vocabulary which functions without the slightest ambiguity. We know exactly what he is “saying”, what he is “feeling” and the narrative that he weaves through the hour-long performance flows on impeccably until the final moment when he realizes that the child has understood him in this mass of adult chaos. The joy of it all produces language! What a magnificent concept!
I was amused, I was fascinated and then I was moved and finally he had me in tears! .
Run to see Vernus Says Surprise. There are only 70 seats in the Leonard Beaulne studio so get there 30 minutes in advance.
Written, Conceived and Performed by Ken Godmere
Directed by Tania Levy
Soudscape designed and edited by Ken Godmere with the talents (vocal and technical) of 18 collaborators.