Q&A: Avaricious

Artistic director Jacquie Thomas on how real-life greed informed Theatre Gargantua's latest show

Presented by Theatre Gargantua
Conceived and directed by Jacquie P.A. Thomas
Written by Michael Spence with the ensemble and contributions by Kat Sandler

Photo credit: Michael Cooper

One of Canada's leading multi-disciplinary theatre companies, Theatre Gargantua is an artist-driven company that produces ground-breaking movement-theatre projects in two-year cycles. This month, Gargantua premieres Avaricious, a satirical exploration of economic disparity written by Michael Spence with contributions by Kat Sandler and the ensemble. The production combines music, physicality, and innovative designs to tell an adrenaline-fuelled fable of a society brought to the tipping point by one man's greed.

Here, we chat with director Jacquie Thomas about her experience bringing it all together.

Theatomania: Tell us about Avaricious. What inspired this piece?

JT: Our last Cycle, called The Sacrifice Zone, examined ideas of social justice and environmental responsibility. Coming out of that exploration we found ourselves with more questions about the nature of human greed. Then the viral Youtube videos started emerging with mind-blowing statistics about actual wealth distribution on the planet. That’s when our ideas started to get some teeth.

Theatromania: How would you describe the production in a few sentences?

JT: As serious as the subject is, we really wanted a piece that was not only thought provoking but entertaining. It is a satirical, fairy-tale-like story of a billionaire profiting from an impending, apocalyptic flood. It has all of Gargantua’s signature movement and musical elements and features a chorus of “Evensies” – irreverent characters who first appeared in our earlier Cycle, Imprints.

Theatromania: Avaricious is Writen by Michael Spence with the ensemble and contributions from Kat Sandler. This sounds like a truly collaborative effort. Can you tell us more about this process?

JT: At the beginning of the process we really didn’t know what form the play would take. Everyone in the room contributed writing and helped to hammer out story and character ideas. For last fall’s production, Kat took up the lead writing reins and crafted everyone’s contributions into a comprehensive script. This year, with Kat’s help, Michael reworked and rewrote much of the script, but there remain bits of everyone’s contributions in there. The collaboration provides a wonderful richness as well as a sense of ownership for the contributors.

Theatromania: What surprised you most during the research for the play?

JT: The biggest surprises have been how much crazier than fiction the facts actually are. The setting of our story is based on an actual house recently built overlooking the slums of Mumbai. It is 46 storeys tall – the most expensive house ever built, and it was built on land illegally purchased from an orphanage. I’m not kidding. There are astounding statistics about who’s got the money, how they got it and how they justify it, and they needed to be in our play.

Theatromania: What have you learned from this experience so far?

JT: Working in the arts is a non-stop learning experience. The research for this production has shown me how little we understand how imbalanced the economics of our world truly are. It seems to me that there’s a tipping point approaching that will bring about some pretty serious changes.

Avaricious runs from November 4 to 21, 2015 at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. Visit theatregargantua.ca for more information. Click here to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2015-11-04 - Sat, 2015-11-21


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