Review—Winners and Losers PuSh Festival Vancouver
– by Christine Redmond
What do zoophiles, microwaves, Mexico, Leni Riefenstahl, Stephen Hawking, Stonehenge, Mother Theresa and Lindsay Lohan all have in common? Well, according to James Long and Marcus Youssef, the writers and performers of Winners and Losers, these topics (along with many more seemingly unrelated issues) can be defined as either a winner or a loser.
Sitting opposite one another at a table with a bell within reach, they debate whether the decided topic is a winner or loser and go on to ring in the next topic. The pace is fast and the arguments are intelligent but humorous. On one side there’s Youssef declaring Stonehenge and ancient druids as winners with retaliation on the other side from Long sneering, “You show me someone who has the time to dress up as a druid and I’ll show you a loser.” And on it goes, from who’s the better masturbator to whether Stephen Hawking would choose legs over legacy. The script between the two comes across as natural and improvised and is reminiscent of watching two friends with a few beers in them argue at the bar. But, things turn sour pretty quickly.
As the show rolls on, topics become increasingly personal, and the atmosphere tense and uncomfortable. The pair dissect one another on stage from their polar opposite upbringings to their current social status. Long attacks Youssef for his privileged roots and his affluent lifestyle and Youseef attacks Long for being an absent father and money-centric martyr. The battle of who’s the winner and who’s the loser is cruel, cringe-worthy and frighteningly real. In the end it seems to all boil down to money: the bitter working-class against the self-righteous upper-class.
The local reference points throughout ground the argument to a very relatable scenario and (for this writer) the success of the performance was the confusion it created. Was it scripted? Is this theatre? Winners and Losers, produced by Theatre Replacement, New World Theatre and Crows Theatre, succeeded in realizing the intent of the PuSh Festival in creating work that is genre-bending and original.
Winners and Losers was performed at Goldcorp Centre for the Arts from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, 2013.