Interview: Trapped in a Vox (Youth Infringement Festival Winner)

At the Fringe VIP party on Wednesday, the house band for the Fringe (Ottawa’s The Capitol Beat) is belting out a rendition of the Joe Cocker version of The Letter. It’s making it a little hard to record this interview with five of the cast of Trapped in a Vox, the winner of the Youth Infringement Festival.

“You’ll have to speak up a little bit,”
“Can we dance at the same time?”
“Of course, it wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t dance!”

The Youth Infringement Festival takes place in May, showcasing over 80 works from youth aged 15-25. The audience favourite wins two Saturday slots in the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Jessica Preece, the stage manager, has worked in this capacity for about seven years now. She hadn’t heard of Youth Infringement, did the show as a favour to a friend, and enjoyed working with an experienced cast. “It wasn’t so bad because these guys have all experienced theatre – they’re all theatre graduates or currently enrolled in theatre school. So there wasn’t really a whole lot of training that had to be done for them. But some of the other shows, it was the first run for every person in the show, so I’m sure they had many more challenges.”

“The show is a dark comedy,” says Jacki Brabazon, who plays voice number two in the show, “based on a character named William Richardson – he’s troubled by two voices in his head trying to convince him to kill himself. And comedy ensues. If you can believe it. It’s wacky, and it’s quick, and it’s fun.” Jacki and co-voice Kate Heney, are dressed in nurses’ uniforms that seemed to be designed more for form than function.

Kate was initially concerned how the play would be appreciated by the audience. “I actually work for Ottawa Public Health, and one of the things that we have to tackle is youth mental illness; it’s a hot issue today. We all talked about how we handled the issue – we asked ourselves, are we handling it well, are we taking it seriously enough? The fact is, we’re not really taking it seriously at all, we’re considering the possibilities, we’re opening up the absurdity of what people experience, and also the frustration and fear that people experience. But it’s not really a social issues play, there isn’t necessarily a message or a lesson that we’re trying to push, there’s no agenda. It’s just an opportunity for the audience to explore a world that they haven’t explored yet, and try to emphasize with that character, to see if they’ve been there. I think that’s what’s made it a little bit easier to go through that, and hopefully won’t turn people off, as well. I think more than anything it’s just a really fun show to watch.”

“It’s actually really easy to get into that mind-frame – everyone is a little crazy at times,” says Jake William-Smith, who did extensive research to prepare his role as a schizophrenic. “Every time I take any role that requires me to do something I’m not really familiar with I tend to research it quite a bit. We all looked at videos, but we didn’t want to go all the way to schizophrenia, because part of the beauty of the play is it that it’s very ambiguous. So you try to leave it up to the viewer exactly what this is.”

Unfortunately, an audience will only have a limited opportunity to see the show: this Saturday the 18th and the following Saturday the 25th, at 2:30pm. “Yes, unfortunately,” says Brigitte, “I wish we had more, because I really would like people to see this, to see what is Trapped in a Vox. But you know what? I’m just glad we made Fringe in the first place. We’ve got two shows, hopefully people will come out and see those two shows in full force!”

The cast bombards me with all the reasons an audience should come to see the show. “There are two sexy nurses,” says Jess Prees, “and really comfortable seats.” Adds Brigitte, “And the show is really awesome. And if you stick around for an hour, we’ll take you for a beer. Party with the cast afterwords!”

Trapped in a Vox is listed as “Best of Fest” in the Fringe Program. It plays Saturday June 18th at 2:30pm, and Saturday June 25th at 2:30pm, at the Arts Court Theatre.

N.B. My thanks to Evan Thornton who helped me light these photographs!
N.B. (2) The VOX cast has done some creative promotional videos, which can be found here on Youtube.

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