Death be­comes Nina Gil­mour

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De­spite (maybe be­cause of?) their in­no­cence, Shake­spearean char­ac­ters Des­de­mona and Ophe­lia met nasty ends, the for­mer stran­gled by her hus­band, Othello, the lat­ter com­mit­ting sui­cide in Ham­let’s Den­mark.

In Death Mar­ried My Daugh­ter, the two women re­turn from “the undis­cov­ered coun­try” of the after­life to ex­am­ine their time on earth and es­tab­lish who was to blame for their demise.

The piece grew out of a work­shop in Shake­speare and Chekhov that cre­ator/per­form­ers Nina Gil­mour and Danya Buonastella did while study­ing with Philippe Gaulier in Paris. No sur­prise that the show is in the bouf­fon style, Gaulier’s forte.

“The bouf­fon is the out­cast of so­ci­ety, re­turned to civ­i­liza­tion from the swamps,” says Gil­mour, who last ap­peared in The­atre Smith-Gil­mour’s As I Lay Dy­ing. “We know the character best as the fool in Shake­speare’s plays, some­one who’s sup­posed to re­lieve the ruler of his cares. Un­like the clown, whose sole pur­pose is to make the au­di­ence laugh, the bouf­fon crit­i­cizes so­ci­ety by re­fer­ring to the au­di­ence, point­ing out the truths that peo­ple don’t want to hear.” But the bouf­fon has to work care­fully. “The crit­i­cism has to be done beau­ti­fully, with charm and wit. If those qual­i­ties aren’t there, the risk at court could be death or, in the the­atre, view­ers ig­nor­ing what’s be­ing said. You have to reel the au­di­ence in be­fore re­veal­ing the truth.”

In Death Mar­ried My Daugh­ter, co-cre­ated with and di­rected by Dean Gil­mour and Michele Smith, Ophe­lia and Des­de­mona re­turn from the swamps of death to see how the world has changed, or in some ways, re­mained the same.

“The­atri­cal fig­ures who love an au­di­ence, they’ve come back to have a cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, to hold a cer­e­mony that will help them deal with their pasts in which they were mis­treated by lovers, fa­thers and other men.”

The work looks at male dom­i­nance, vi­o­lence and abuse, phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal. It’s not a pe­riod show, though, since con­tem­po­rary fig­ures like right-wingers Ann Coul­ter and Alex Jones and rad­i­cal fem­i­nist Va­lerie Solanas are part of the women’s dis­cus­sion.

“In true bouf­fon tra­di­tion, we don’t make our points in too pushy or heavy-handed a fash­ion. We do it with a twin­kle in our eye, so the au­di­ence is ini­tially off-bal­ance, not sure what we in­tend.” JON KA­PLAN From July 5 at Tar­ragon Mainspace.

No 3 Nina Gil­mour (left) and Danya Buonastella re­sus­ci­tate some dead char­ac­ters to com­ment on male dom­i­nance and vi­o­lence.

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