Stuart Bowden: A Series of Portraits

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You know that feeling, when a room becomes another world? It’s as though everything else ceases to exist when the door closes.

I get this feeling when I see Stuart Bowden’s performances and I think other people do too. Stuart Bowden: A Series of Portraits brings together five different shows – one per night – and they’re all well worth seeing. I’ve seen them all over the years, and been to the first three in the series just this week; so yes, you can trust me on this.

This other-worldly feeling is, perhaps, due in part to the nature of the stories. They’re fanciful, sometimes set in a post-apocalyptic world, sometimes in space (sometimes not) and they playfully blend realism with risible scenarios and images. More than this, though, it’s Stuart’s distinctive style of storytelling and deft theatrical skills that create such an immersive experience.

Combining theatre, storytelling, and soundscapes that are often created live, each performance takes audiences on an immensely entertaining voyage through realms of devastation and wonder.

Like a painter before a canvas, Stuart conjures images that are rich and multi-layered. And, while the stories tend to meditate on death and loneliness, they also amplify the beautiful and heart-warming.

Stuart’s evocative use of simile and metaphor is also particularly pleasing. As a story unfolds, he can bring the narrative from a period of high-action to a poignant rumination on subtleties of human experience. As metaphors crash and roll into one another, we are reminded of the fragility of our existence.

These shows are also exceptionally funny. Somehow, this performer manages to deliver tales that are sometimes dark, devastating, vulnerable, and saddeningly beautiful, with whimsical and absurdist humour. Stuart’s use of physical comedy is also a marvel to behold.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Stuart’s performances are gorgeous, delightful, and touching. They’re unparalleled, unassuming, and unfeigned. They simultaneously reflect the heartbreaking and the heart-warming realities of our world and our lives. They leave me in a state of deep contemplation and joyful optimism.

I would say that Stuart Bowden is a magician, but that implies that there is some form of deception involved, and there certainly isn’t. Within his fanciful stories, there is a deep and real truth that we can all relate to.

Star rating systems are, frankly, reductive. But, if I was to be working within one, I’d give this series 4.

Stuart Bowden: A Series of Portraits runs until February 11 at The Blue Room Theatre Studio.

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