It is a sad fact of life that as you get older, you will attend more funerals and there may be times, particularly if the deceased enjoyed the proverbial "good innings", that you are forced to stifle a guffaw as you listen to a eulogy where the (very) human being you knew is sanctified.
That guffaw may be more difficult to stifle if you see Yorick! Binge Culture Collective's madcap musical about dying, death and living the best life you can before you meet your maker. There's one scene — actually there could be quite a few — which will resonate with anyone who's ever been to a funeral like the one described above.
In it, performers Rachel Baker, Isobel MacKinnon and Freya Finch — the kind of women who make eating a sandwich the height of hilarity — pay homage to Yorick, the dead jester from Shakespeare's Hamlet, who's represented by a white cycle helmet hanging from the ceiling. Each seeks to outdo the other with ever more embellished tales of what Yorick meant to them and how close they were. It ends with a rousing musical number, Do Your Best Work, accompanied by onstage musician/composer Oliver Devlin.
The show is a tongue-in-cheek nod toward musical theatre where, when the emotion gets too much, there's a song and dance number to lighten the load. After all, if you're going to try to talk about death in a society like ours where it's almost the last taboo, you don't want to be overly serious and Yorick! certainly isn't. At least, most of the time it isn't.
Much care has been taken with the music, arranged by composer/musician Jake Baxendale and pre-recorded by a live band. The songs are funny, relevant and always inserted at just the right time; the dancing is equally as amusing especially in the outer space scenes where Baker, MacKinnon and Finch attempt to grapple with how small and insignificant we are.
Given the name, the other nod is, of course, toward Hamlet. In programme notes, the cast and creative team describe Shakespeare's great tragedy as the "quintessential existential literary archetype" when it comes to mortality. Each of the show's five acts — a bit like a jigsaw puzzle with each one put together by a different person — play fast and loose with the interpretation.
Those who like their theatre well-structured and sign-posted may find it's a bit too fast and loose, although they'll surely delight in the uniformly excellent performances. Overall Yorick! is an absurd and absurdly funny romp.
What: Yorick! (Part of Q Theatre's Matchbox 2018 season)
Where & when: Loft at Q Theatre, Until Saturday, June 23
Reviewer: Dionne Christian