"Goosefeather," measurably pleasant storytelling at the Fringe Festival
"Goosefeather" is a captivating performance by Vancouver storyteller and artist Naomi Steinberg. Through clowning and a mastery of language she takes the audience from Paris to the South of France, from measuring the globe to the meaning of life.
There is no doubt that Vancouver artist Naomi Steinberg, the creator of “Goosefeather,” is an accomplished storyteller. After all, she was the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Society of Storytelling for the last five years, and many of us have seen her performing around town for years. But in this one-person performance, written and performed by her, she is much more. She is enchanter, entertainer and provocateur. An intimate story about life’s deepest meanings, Steinberg makes us laugh, listen, and whether we know it or not, she prompts us to think deeply.
In her inimitable style, Steinberg combines performance, clowning (she gives out quite a few “honks”), mime (as a Goose who plucks her feathers and spreads her wings), philosophical exposition, comedy and dynamic, superbly-written storytelling. We are at once uplifted to large abstract thoughts and brought home by her rich and tangible descriptions of daily life.
Strutting in a French corset and ballooning pants, she begins by exploring concepts of measurement. Her sinewy, muscular arms stretch the width of the tiny stage as she asks about what we measure and how we measure it. Meters? Laughter? Kilometers? Smiles? The story quickly travels to her grandfather’s Paris apartment. He is 93. And Steinberg is there to interview him. A story based on truth.
“Why am I so stubborn?” she asks as a first question. Many questions follow, a hundred, in fact. Her grandfather comes to refer to the interview as an interrogation. Luckily, she has skillfully weaned through the questions to give the audience just enough to describe character and create drama. When she asks her grandfather about being a hero, he gruffly dismisses the description of himself. But hidden in this question, like so many, is a backstory. In this case, her grandfather saved her grandmother during the Second World War. (The real reveal is in the show!)
And so it goes, tidbit by tidbit, question and answer nicely sprinkled with intricate tactile details and the description of a trip – perhaps a wild goose chase! -- to Southern France. During the telling, Steinberg plays the clown…drawing a clock with arms and body, clucking and honking, and always responding to the audience’s movements and comments.
Her last question is just as it should be - about the meaning of life. Life is to live, we learn from her grandfather. Smelling lavender and baking bread, hearing the scratchy sound of tape shutting packing boxes, walking a typical Paris street, watching a granddaughter find identity from a grandfather, flying on Goose wings to an ancestral village.
Steinberg takes us on a measured journey that releases the imagination beyond increment. Perhaps, she suggests, we measure to place ourselves and to understand who we are in relation to time and location. She is about to embark on a round-the-world venture, mapping her own movement as a roving prime meridian.
Resting beside her throughout the performance of “Goosefeather” is a plastic, blowup globe. At one point she lovingly holds and kisses it. She will take this story of her grandfather and herself around the globe in her travels. But before she goes, she performs as part of the Fringe Festival at the Toast Collective (located on Kingsway near Fraser) until September 14th. Clearly I liked this production, from artistry to content. Go see it before this Vancouver goose flies away.
For more information on show times and the project, see www.goosefeather.ca