Thursday, September 29, 2022

This tribute artist is The Thing

Electric banjo parodies of hit songs explore addiction, technology and love in Canada in the 21st century.

Electric banjo parodies of hit songs in The Fantastic One explore addiction, technology and love in Canada in the 21st century.

… a deeper look into this character might be the thing to help us all understand where we find ourselves in this complicated moment.

We learn more in this Q&A with creator and performer Jesse Ward.

The Fantastic One plays at Neptune Theatre’s Imperial Studio on September 3-11. Visit tickethalifax.com for tickets and information.

This interview has been edited.

Tell us about The Fantastic One. What can audiences expect?

The show is a performance by The Fantastic One, an electric banjo singer-songwriter who dresses as The Thing from The Fantastic Four and updates popular songs to have lyrics about The Thing.

Between songs, he tells stories and jokes about the rocky road he followed towards becoming a The Thing tribute artist and how a deeper look into this character might be the thing to help us all understand where we find ourselves in this complicated moment.

What was the inspiration for The Fantastic One?

One year I dressed up as The Thing to join friends for Halloween at The Marquee in Halifax after a rushed trip to a thrift store uncovered a Thing mask, and I thought it funny — “Oh, I think I know who this is, it’s that superhero.” This triggered a sequence of events resulting in The Fantastic One’s residency at Neptune Theatre.

Why this particular show now?

My research into crises of identity and value systems in the 21st century brought me to a nexus where I found The Thing.

During a time when traditional cultures are endangered by the overwhelming influence of American and international pop culture, almost everyone in the world knows about The Thing. In France, he is La Chose. In China, his name translates to “Stone Man.”

Even if you never intentionally consumed any Fantastic Four content, you know about this character because marketing budgets propelled him into your life. For Canadians of my generation, this is true for thousands more fictional characters.

Awareness of these characters unites us, but at what cost? In the face of existential challenges we can only overcome through solidarity, what should we do with the sentimental attachments we formed in isolation with these characters?

This show addresses these questions without holding anything back.

What do you hope audiences leave The Fantastic One talking about?

How we can only understand ourselves through vulnerable communication with each other and the importance of contributing to social self-reliance in your local community. Audiences will also never hear the Blink-182 song “All The Small Things” again without thinking about the version they once listened to that was about collecting The Thing action figures.

Why should someone come to see The Fantastic One?

You have never seen any Thing like this. Additionally, any ticket sale proceeds will go to Mawita’mk Society, a charitable Mi’kmaq society celebrating the gifts of aboriginal people with disabilities.

The Fantastic One plays at Neptune Theatre’s Imperial Studio on September 3-11. Visit tickethalifax.com for tickets and information.

The Halifax Fringe Festival returns to live in-person performances from September 1 through September 11, with more than 55 productions taking place at venues across the downtown and North End neighbourhoods.

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