As he tries to explain Scaramouche Jones, the word Michael Graham keeps returning to — whether it’s to describe the play’s story, or its language, or its overall tone — is “delicious.”
“I really like this play. I really love it,” says Graham. “It’s a really beautiful piece. Each time I do it, I find new stuff. I find new ways of doing it. Because when you strip it all down, it’s just storytelling.”
Opening next Thursday, Scaramouche Jones tells the story of a 100-year-old clown contemplating the end of his life at the beginning of the new millennium.
“He starts talking to the ghosts of his past and present and future, and in doing so he tells the story of his life,” says Graham. “It’s this rich tapestry of events, travels, adventures, mishaps, tragedies.”
And though there’s a clown at the centre of it, Graham wouldn’t call the show a comedy. But, he adds, “it’s not boo-hoo sad. As far as he goes, he’s had a great life. He’s happy, he’s content with what he’s done. He’s had a rich life, this guy.”
This isn’t the first time Graham has donned the white makeup and fright wig of the play’s titular character. The one-man show got its Nelson debut about five years ago, when he teamed up with a local high school student for a run. Two years later he took it to the Montreal Fringe Festival, where it was voted one of the top ten shows of 2007.
But what’s brought him back to the show again, he says, are playwright Justin Butcher’s “delicious words.”
“It’s sort of Shakesperian, but in today’s language,” he explains. “They’re words that you know what they mean, but you don’t use them enough, or put them together enough in everyday language. I had to keep looking stuff up, to see how do these exactly fit together.”
For this staging Graham’s marrying his old love with his latest venture, holding the show in a small pocket of Grid Art Gallery. With thick, black curtains hemming in an audience of no more than 30, it’s an intimate setting that demands a viewer’s attention.
“You’ll have no way to escape,” Graham says with glee. “It takes it to an edge where [the audience] is not exactly safe. They’re involved. They can’t sort of hide in the dark.”
Scaramouche Jones opens February 3 at Grid Art Gallery and runs Thursday through Saturday until February 19. Tickets are $15 in advance from Otter Books, or $17 at the door. Show starts at 8 p.m.