Prepare for cross-check and departure

Elling Lien speaks to Robert Chafe about Artistic Fraud’s new musical spectacle, Fear of Flight.

Your friendly neighbourhood experimental theatre company Artistic Fraud are back, and they’re ready to spring the biggest show they’ve done in eight years.

Fear of Flight is a “music and movement spectacle” which follows fourteen passengers on a bumpy transcontinental flight. It’s a mash-up of monologues written by some of the best canadian playwrights on the go, accapella choral work, and choreographed movement. It’s an incredible sight to see (take my word for it, I sat in on a rehearsal and was blown away.)

With such a large cast of characters and support, it echoes Artistic Fraud’s earlier, massive beginnings. In Your Dreams Freud was a 45-person musical. The Cheat had 82 people. Under Wraps was 34.

“Of course, all of this stuff was when we were doing amateur theatre and we weren’t paying these people,” says Chafe.

Once Under Wraps did really well, and a tour started, suddenly they turned into a professional company.

“The drawback to that was, now that we’re a professional company, we have to pay professional wages,” he says. “There’s no way we could enter into a development period like we did with Under Wraps where we were rehearsing for three months and pay that number of people a fair wage.”

So the shows got scaled back, and they started doing smaller work.

What resulted was a series of shows Chafe says they’re proud of—but it felt as though they were getting away from the artistic roots of the company: big theatre, massive movement.

When, in 2005, Artistic Fraud was offered a residency at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, suddenly there were 30 students available for them to work with.

“So the notion of developing this show through the school became a really attractive thing,” says Chafe. “So that’s what we did, and this show came out of it.”

The play was very well received at 2006’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival as a student production, and now Jillian Keiley and Chafe are bringing it back to the St. John’s stage with a professional cast.

My early prognosis, after watching 10 minutes of rehearsal? This will be the best local show of the year.

Fear of Flight will be at the LSPU Hall from Tuesday, April 29 to May 4, and again from May 6 to May 11. For ticket information, phone the Hall at 753-4531.