May 2, 2013

'Number 14' could be making final run

MONTREAL — This may very well be the wildest ride of your life. Exact change only, please.

The Centaur Theatre presents “The Number 14,” a crazy, kooky ride aboard the Number 14, an actual bus that snakes it way through the streets of Vancouver. On that bus, you’ll meet quite a collection of characters: an acrobatic granny, a not-yet-dressed-for-work real-estate agent, a bevy of businessmen, a group of old-timers on their way to the bingo hall, an assembly of rowdy school kids on a field trip... In all, some 60 passengers — masterfully played by a cast of only six actors — are going about their daily routines.

“It’s kind of like vaudeville on a bus,” said Roy Surette, Centaur’s artistic director and one of the original writers of the work as well as the original director.

“The Number 14” celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The work was first produced by Axis Theatre and Touchstone Theatre in Vancouver.

“We wanted to explore modern commedia dell’arte in a way,” Surette said of the Italian-style theater genre that employs a multitude of half masks.

“And there were just some really funny people around me when I was at Touchstone Theatre,” he said. 

Surette said Axis Theatre, which was formerly called Axis Mime, focused on physical theater, and clown and mask work. Surette worked closely with mask designer Melody Anderson.

“Melody made these amazing masks,” Surette said.

A group of “really good physical-theater people” soon formed, he said.

“At the time, there was a real renaissance of off-the-wall creative work happening,” Surette said. “We wanted to explore the concept of rich and poor, master and servant — we wanted to cover all of society.”

Some brainstorming ensued.

“We first created characters and masked characters, but we still didn’t know what we were doing in terms of a plot,” Surette said. “And then Melody came in one day and said, ‘What about a bus?’”

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