Theatre Gargantua’s production of Michael Gordon Spence’s The Wager, which opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille takes as its starting point Alfred Russell Wallace’s (the other natural selection guy) bet with a Flat Earther to prove that the Earth is round. He does do, of course. Or at least to the satisfaction of any reasonable person but merely succeeds in provoking a storm of personal abuse and insults from the Flat Earther. All of which tends to prove the old adage that arguing with a crackpot is like wrestling with a pig. You get covered in s**t and the pig enjoys it.
From Wallace we proceed through a highly kinetic exploration in words and music of various counterfactual and conspiracy theories. A game show contestant must choose between changing her lifestyle or leaving a desert for her grandchildren. We meet a celebrity anti-vaxxer convinced that since her child is autistic and was vaccinated that vaccination causes autism. One of two birds flapping their way above the stage expresses doubt that the Gourd is the One True Squash and is countered by the “proof” that they have triumphed over the Pumpkin Patch People. There’s even a spoof German opera (with surtitles). At this point you may well be thinking that this must be unbearably didactic or just plain silly. It isn’t. Yes, there’s silliness but in a Pythonesque sort of way that leaves a lot to think about. It’s great fun though I doubt it will actually convert anyone.
Director Jacquie P.A. Thomas gets some great performances out of a multi talented quartet of actor/singers (Olivia Croft, Teiya Kasahara, François Macdonald and the author). I suspect what looked like a typical straight theatre audience may have been a little surprised when some genuinely operatic singing (and not just from Teiya) kept breaking out. It’s a one acter running maybe 75 minutes without intermission so it doesn’t stretch to concept beyond its potential. Good fun!
The Wager runs at Theatre Passe Muraille until November 30th. Photo credits: Michael Cooper.