Weather, comedy and improv
Apr 02 2021
By Amy Kenny
The weather isn’t small talk anymore. It can’t be, in Anita Rochon’s opinion. These days, if you’re going to make small talk about the weather, you’ve got to decide if you’re going to stick to the benign day-to-day stuff (nice day, eh?), or talk about the big issues (how ‘bout that climate change?).
That’s what was on her mind when she developed Pathetic Fallacy—a live touring work that draws a line between ancient weather gods and the immediate conundrums of 2021.
The performance, coming to the Yukon Arts Centre April 8, is about weather and climate change. It’s an investigation into the relationship we have with weather and how that has changed over millennia. Because of that, Rochon says, she didn’t feel she could put performers on planes and send them around the world.
“I set myself the challenge of trying to write a touring show where no one goes on tour,” Rochon says over the phone from Vancouver, where she’s artistic director of The Chop Theatre. “That was the way in … one of the main ideas in [the performance] is how do you grapple with your existence knowing it can have a negative impact? That that’s the way we live in the western world.”
When Pathetic Fallacy “tours,” whether it’s in B.C., Whitehorse or Hong Kong, a local performer stands in for Rochon (at YAC, that will be Brian Fidler and Bobby Prematunga for separate performances).
Onstage, performers take direction from a computer monitor that’s invisible to the audience, while standing in front of a green screen, being filmed live. Next to them is a projection screen where they are projected in front of various backgrounds.
It’s a mash-up of DIY cinematography, action film, choreography, a gallery talk, improv and weather forecasting.
“It doesn’t look like a regular play,” says Rochon. “There are no scenes with other people. It’s a bit more of a meander-y path through the garden of my mind,” she says, laughing as she compares it to a stand-up essay.
If comedy and climate change sound like odd bedfellows, Rochon knows that, but says humour is a big part of the intent behind the play. It starts off with an absurd, funny conceit—the performer is discovering the performance at the same time as the audience.
Rochon says The Chop typically tries to create space for serious and intense dialogue, but also with the hope of joy and connection. She feels like Pathetic Fallacy does that. Talking about climate change with friends and family can be scary, she says. But having the space of a performance like this to contemplate the concept feels different.
“It’s useful without it being didactic,” she says of the performance. “I don’t offer solutions because we all know what we have to do and what the problem is.”
“Weather is one of those topics that is, for me, so anxiety-inducing to think about because of climate change. But I hope that people [walk away from the performance with] a deeper and a more fulsome relationship to the weather and how we used to think of it and how we think of it now. I hope they fall in love with the weather in a different way.”