Bessie Wapp was sick.
The Nelson thespian had been slated to host Oxygen Art Centre’s cabaret a few years ago, but at the last minute Nicola Harwood had to jump in — hurriedly creating an alter-ego named Ilse to take the stage.
“Ilse arrived fully formed as an emergency character, she just appeared, and she was so great that the next year I decided she needs a show,” Harwood, who is reprising her role, told the Star.
“Then Brahm Taylor ended up being my depraved younger brother Klaus and things just kind of went from there.”
The pair have since moved to Vancouver after performing multiple times as the duo, but they’re returning for the upcoming fundraiser Aliens with Benefits at Oxygen on June 22 and 23. They will host the evening as a number of performers and artists take the stage, and they’ve got an “extravagant adventure” in store for the audience.
“The cabaret has always been filled with bawdy, sexual and political humour, so whatever’s going on politically always ends up in the show,” said Harwood.
That’s why Melania Trump will be making an appearance — as well as wild animals and an alien.
“These two are totally out of control, they were former Communist party darlings in the East German republic, now we’re wandering lost, orphans of a failed ideology. We don’t have a home anymore.”
The night will include live music, a cappella singing, dance performances and comedic appearances from local performers such as Sydney Black, Lisel Forst, Laurie Jarvis, Hiromoto Ida, Thomas Loh and many others.
“It’s the who’s who of both the music scene and the artistic scene of Nelson. All these folks are well known in the community here, and have done many shows and performances in different capacities, so it’s kind of like a curated cabaret format,” said Taylor.
“It’s not open mic, we’ve grabbed people who are at the top tier of their expression.”
And they’re excited to introduce a new actor to town, Avi Phillips, who once toured alongside Taylor in a production of The Overcoat. He will be taking a starring role during the evening as well.
“Just by happenstance, Avi and his family moved here last year, so when I came back I asked him if he could be part of the show,” said Taylor, though he declined to ruin the surprise of what exactly Phillips will be doing.
Harwood is thrilled to be returning to Oxygen after having been the executive director for many years and launching award-winning art projects such as her interactive exploration of Chinese culture High Muck a Muck. She’s currently working on a new project called Summoning, which will come out this summer.
In the meantime, she’s looking to make people laugh.
“Some of the best comedy comes during war and depression. If you need a good laugh to escape from the apocalypse, come see the cabaret.”
The shows will be from 8 to 9:30 p.m. each night.