Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions

A RADIO FANTASY, meta-theatrical reflection on the nature of power and revenge.

By: Jan. 18, 2021
Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Right to Left: Sean Sullivan, Matthew Reid,
Stefne Mercedes, Lynne Griffin and Tim Fitzgerald Walker

THE SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy is a "hybrid theatrical creation. Part bedtime story, part Clockwork Orange. Half Bugs Bunny, half nightmare."

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Sean Sullivan

The magnificent brainchild of writer-performer Sean Sullivan, SBDC was set to open in Toronto at the Grand Canyon Theatre when the pandemic shut down the entire industry. Great art cannot be contained. I'm not talking about BIG art, mind you. I'm talking about GREAT art, created by great artists. Sullivan is a consummate theatre and film artist and a virtuosic physical performer. When I learned last spring that the production was canceled, I thought it was dead, because it featured commanding physical performances. Sullivan's genius gave him no rest, however, and he translated the production into an auditory feast.

Harri Thomas directed the piece with skill and vision, detailed and disciplined dramaturgy that evolved the creation from inspired idea to fully realized, unique theatrical reality." According to Sullivan, "the actors playing the characters in the radio play (including me, most definitely) have been nurtured, challenged, tweaked and nuanced into those performances by [Thomas] a very young and preternaturally gifted director and dramaturg, first in the rehearsal hall for the stage production, and then by remote as we rehearsed and recorded the audio version. A daunting and impressive task."

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Lynne Griffin

All of the performances are superb, the script is witty and cynical, wacky and dark. The sound design is delightful, and a full character of its own.

It bears mention that Lynne Griffin plays "The Clown Mother," who was a mute character in the stage version. Sullivan said, "I wrote her dialogue and left her to invent the grammalot or clown-speak version." Griffin created a rich, mysteriously linguistic performance for the sonant masterpiece.

The printed program never saw the light of day, so here are some essential quotes and bios:

THE SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A RADIO FANTASY is an original audio adaptation of the play THE SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS written by Sean Sullivan, funded by an Explore and Create/Concept to Realization Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The members of a tattered and tired traveling circus are forced to improvise after their boss unceremoniously fires almost the entire troupe. What follows is a play that transplants its listening audience from a dusty carnival to a surreal world of fantasy and retribution.

Equal parts Bugs Bunny and Guillermo del Toro, THE SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A RADIO FANTASY is a meta-theatrical reflection on the nature of power and revenge. A highly theatrical blend of low-end carnival, violent vaudeville, clowns with issues, and insectoid horror, elevated by original music by Sullivan and Matthew Reid that can best be described as the unholy spawn of ironic German cabaret, swampy rhythm and blues, and carnival music of the damned.

Building from the original script, the audio version transforms the play's highly stylized and visually striking production elements into a solidly constructed audio kaleidoscope of comedy and satire [akin to the surreal recordings of The Firesign Theatre, Monty Python, and The Goons] and nightmares [reminiscent of the unnerving vocal terror of avant-garde singer Diamanda Galas, the bizarre smorgasbord of soundscapes, funk breakdowns, and death metal growls of six-octave singer Mike Patton and the dream/nightmare collage of The Beatles 'Revolution No. 9'].

Director Harri Thomas notes, "In The Slaughter Brothers Dime Circus, the audience is taken on a journey from the moment they enter the space, immersing them in the world of a dilapidated and ageless traveling circus. In doing so, they enter a world where comedy, terror, and rage are braided together in familiar and unexpected ways. In order to support the show's wide formal sweep [which ranges from clown and mime to musical and horror] we have striven to combine arte povera and magical realism. All the parts are laid bare, with the show's elements of the magical and strange emerging from the explicit combination of modern technology and old school vaudeville. This logic of anachronism creates a self-contained other world, which unfolds and unravels in real time. An aesthetic of collapse, as curated by Bugs Bunny.

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Sullivan Headshot

SEAN SULLIVAN (author, producer, co-composer, actor) Dubbed 'a virtual Nijinsky of performance art' by the New York Times, Mr. Sullivan has toured North America and Central Europe in the solo play 'Baby Redboots' Revenge', winning awards and accolades in Poland, The Czech Republic, New York City, (at P.S. 122, the alternative theatre mecca in NYC), Los Angeles and San Diego.

Elsewhere as an actor, Sullivan has appeared in 12 productions at the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA. Favorite roles include Norman in The Dresser and Davey/Leon in The Voice of the Prairie. Recent productions include Criminals In Love in Sydney, NS and A Servant Of Two Masters in Ottawa, and in Toronto The Castle, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Liver, Out At Sea, A Midsummer Nightmare, Potosi and The Seagull.

Sullivan's film credits inclue God and Country, Foolproof, Wayne's World, Back To The Future III, Who's That Girl?, and The Howling VI. Selected TV credits: The Umbrella Academy (recurring), Damien, Hemlock Grove, Good God, Across The River To Motor City, Poor Tom is Cold.

Sullivan won the inaugural Masters In Mime Tournament in California and went on to study, then tour with Richmond Shepard, ('American's Foremost Mime'). He studied classical theatre in the Professional Training Program at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

As a musician and composer, he has written theatre scores for North Coast Repertory, Persephone Theatre, ShakespeareWorks, Humber College, and on tv for CTV's dramatic series 'The Associates'. Sean was the Sound Designer for Theatre Aquarius' production of 'Amadeus'. He is a dual Canadian/US citizen who has lived in Toronto for 24 years with his wife Lynne Griffin.

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Harri Thomas

HARRI THOMAS (Director): Graduate of the Directing Program, National Theatre School, Harri has been acting, directing and creating theatre for over a decade. Often drawing from the English literary canon, Harri's productions emphasize explorations of language, gender and meta-theatricality, often drawing attention to the tenuous line between performer and audience. Harri recently took part in the Acrobatics of the Heart Grotowski intensive, studying under Stephen Wangh and other specialists in Grotowski's performance and training methodology.

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Lynne Griffin Headshot

LYNNE GRIFFIN [actor] Lynne's acting credits span forty years, appearing at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals as well as in theatres across Canada and the U.S. Her favorite roles have been The Nurse in Romeo and Juliet which she has played four times, and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, which she has recently played twice. Film/TV credits include the HBO film Farhrenheit 451, the mini-series Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion, the feature film cult hits Black Christmas, Strange Brew and Curtains, and her TV series' include Happy Town, Wind At My Back, Riverdale and Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, and guest appearances on Lost Girl, Call Me Fitz, Warehouse 13, Murdoch Mysteries, Remedy and playing 'Mrs. Santa' in two Santa Baby movies for ABC-TV. Lynne's directing credits include the solo play Baby Redboot's Revenge (starring her husband, Sean Sullivan), A Christmas Carol Comedy, The Voice of the Prairie and Alice in Wonderland.

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Tim Fitzgerald Walker Headshot

TIM FITZGERALD WALKER [actor] Tim was born and raised in the jewel of the Kawarthas: Peterborough Ontario. He graduated from George Brown's Theatre Arts program in 2007, he is a graduate of Italy's prestigious International school for comedic acting. He is a two time Dora nominee and a recipient of the Second City's Tim Sims award for comedy (George Brown) He has been working in theatre, film and television since graduating in 2007. Recent theatre credits include: Mules (Hit and Myth/Bygone theatre) Dryland (Cue6) Penible : A Canadian tale of Tartuffian Magnitude (Centre for Indigenous Theatre) Northern Lights (Theatre by the Bay) The Libertine (Talk is free) White Heat (Presgang theatre) Recent film credits : The Neddeaus of Duquesne Island (CBC Gems) Solitude by Black Sabbath (Pagliacci Prod - Toronto short film fest - National Screen Institute - Real to Reel Fest North Carolina ) American Gothic (ABC Television) L'dor V'dor (Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Forest City Film Festival)

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Stefne Merceded Headshot

STEFNE MERCEDES (Actor) Raised on a goat farm in the woods of New Hampshire, Stefne is an actor/writer/producer/explorer with a voracious appetite for the strange. She is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy, MI and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, NYC. She is the lead producer of Vox Valkyrie and a founding member of Other HeArts Theatre Collective. Previous credits include: Mad Ones [Tangled Art + Disability], Murdoch Mysteries [CBC TV], Lot and His God [Desiderata Theatre Company]

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
Deanna H. Choi

Deanna H. Choi [sound designer, audio technician] A classically-trained violinist, Choi completed her ARCT Performance Diploma and received the National Gold Medal upon convocation from the Royal Conservatory of Music. She subsequently studied behavioural neuroscience at Queen's University and completed an honours thesis in music cognition. She presented her research findings at national conferences, published papers, and was a featured speaker at TEDxQueens. During her undergraduate studies, Choi started composing and designing for student theatre productions and was bitten by the proverbial theatre bug. Choi relocated to Toronto after completing her studies and has since merged her passions for storytelling, performance, and understanding human psychology into the medium of sound design. She designs and composes across Canada, for theatre companies including the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, Canadian Stage, and Soulpepper, amongst others. Choi studied violin with Jonathan Crow (Toronto Symphony), Tibor Vaghy (Vaghy String Quartet), Jerry Csaba (NAC), and the late Kenneth Perkins (Orford Quartet), and has performed extensively as a chamber musician, soloist, and orchestral musician. Choi co-founded the Badass Brahms Chamber Collective, a non-profit ensemble that makes chamber music accessible and relevant to new audiences.

Review: SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS - A Radio Fantasy at Baby Monster Productions
The SBDC Company

The SLAUGHTER BROTHERS DIME CIRCUS is available for rental and purchase on VIMEO. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Written by Sean Sullivan

Directed by Harri Thomas

Songs by Sean Sullivan.

Musical composition by Sean Sullivan and Matthew Reid

Musical Director and Arranger: Matthew Reid

Sound Designer/Audio Technician: Deanna H. Choi

Featuring the voices of Lynne Griffin, Tim Fitzgerald Walker, Stefne Mercedes, and Sean Sullivan.