Axis Theatre

The Number 14

Dates 28 February – 247 March, 2007 Venue Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island Reviewer Erin Jane

I had heard promising things about The Number 14, and being an avid theatre-goer and daily transit user, I entered the Granville Island Waterfront Theatre filled with anticipation of an entertaining show. An engaging opening scene transfixed me, as the cast marched out in suits and masks, executing a well-choreographed introduction on the set designed to look like a city bus.

There is no doubt that The Number 14’s performers are quite talented, and each ably danced, sang and even trapezed the night away. However, the low-brow comedy and slapstick humour infused with local references really disappointed me. Many sketches went on for far too long and I felt the show suffered greatly for it. Some sketches had the potential to be quite humourous, including one of a woman getting dressed and ready for work on the bus, reminiscent of classic Mr. Bean trying to change on the beach. But again, the longer the scene continued, the sooner the humour faded.

Also, jokes such as “I have diabetes” really missed the mark - a line delivered by an actor playing the role of a child whose obese belly, exposed by a cut-off Bart Simpson T-shirt, was being continuously stuffed with a bag of cheese puffs permanently stuck in his hands. At the end of the scene, where it seemed that the child vomits his cheese puffs and another child wets his pants, I had to pick my jaw up from the floor – my mouth was literally agape at the clumsy treatment of what to me is a fairly unfunny subject matter.

I don’t consider myself to have an overly conservative sense of humour, and indeed there were a few redeeming, clever moments, but they were brief and consisted more often than not of potty humour. The old “I’m homeless and don’t have enough change for the bus” gag wasn’t funny the first time, and certainly wasn’t funny the second or third time.

Scenes without dialogue proved most entertaining. In addition to the opening scene, another consisted entirely of miming, cleverly using magazine pictures to convey emotion. In another scene, a delightful and wordless dance sequence was very well performed and succeeded in trapping my attention.

Though this performance of The Number 14 was not without merit, it did seem as though the original script might have been cleverer, but a lot of changes to the sketches and the local-specific humour perhaps took away from the theme that is the experience of riding a city bus. References to Granville Island, Science World and other well-known Vancouver landmarks were well-received and got a healthy share of guffaws from the audience.

I suspect that The Number 14 will still draw an audience. But its most entertained spectators will most likely consist of those looking for over-the-top low-brow comedy in extremely accessible theatre. Director Wayne Specht himself notes that his inspiration has come from everything from Commedia dell’arte to Mr. Bean and vaudeville filled with local-specific humour. If this is your cup of tea, then you could very well enjoy The Number 14.

© 2007 Erin Jane