A Conversation With ‘Raton Laveur’ Director Amos Crawley

Raton Laveur, which opens this Friday at St. Vladimir’s Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival will have a familiar face at the helm. Former Bridge Co-Artistic Director Amos Crawley, who has been acting professionally since he was knee-high to…well, a raccoon, will try his director’s hat on for size, collaborating with David Patrick Flemming and Caitlin Stewart to bring this (dark-sounding) comedy to fruition. Dustin recently had the chance to chat with AC on the subject of RT in advance of their premiere this week:

Bridge: First off, the name. Any particular reason you chose the french translation?

AC: The title of the play actually refers to a specific line– our hero Phil (though actually “hero” may not be the best word to describe Phil) is issued a warning by his Francophone employer: “Fait attention pour les ratons laveurs!” From this seemingly innocuous warning, Phil spirals into a particular kind of madness which has dire and messy consequences. Also: hilarity ensues.

Bridge: As I recall, you’ve always had a thing for Raccoons. How did your own fondness/fascination with the famed nocturnal procyonids (who often terrorize unsuspecting Torontonians) inform the play’s development?

AC: Anyone who lives in Toronto, or I suspect, any major metropolitan centre, has had to deal with the scourge of raccoons. Frankly what I find most disturbing is the fact that as I recall, you used to be able to clap your hands at a raccoon or throw a stone or something and they would skitter away. These days however when I try those old standby tactics the little buggers calmly look up from the contents of my green bin (on which they have been gorging) and look at me as if to say: “What’s your problem? I’m trying to eat here.” It goes against the laws of nature!

Sorry to digress– I get a little worked up. The play feeds on this sort of relationship that I think a lot of us have with the “little washing rat” (to use the direct French translation) and takes it to its logical extremes, hopefully in an entertaining and humourous manner. I don’t want to give too much away but ultimately it is really a play about how dangerous it is to not keep a check on our own obsessions, to indulge your little excursions into madness, because things rarely turn out how you would hope.

Bridge: Raton Laveur’s listing describes it as a comedy about relationships but also warns of graphic violence. Explain.

AC: Again– I feel I would be doing the play an injustice to answer completely– I will however say that there are facets of the relationship between Phil and his fiancee Lily that certainly contribute to a somewhat macabre incident involving les ratons laveurs. Lily and Phil are a lot like the couples that we’re used to seeing on stage or in film– the woman who has it all together and the emotionally stunted guy with the serious case of arrested development. Of course people are never that simple or that easy to boil down to a stereotype. Those stereotypes can be useful though, cause you can put them into a bizarre situation and sometimes find out what it is that really makes those characters tick. It helps to have great actors and I can’t say enough good about David Patrick Flemming and Cait Stewart. If you’re the fine folks at Fracas Theatre you can do all that and have a boatload of laughs while blowing a healthy portion of your budget on stage blood.

Bridge: Though producing and directing Raton Laveur has likely been your singular focus, are there any other entries at this year’s festival that pique your interest?

AC: First off, I know that I am probably preaching to the choir here, but I always want to take the opportunity to discuss how great the Fringe is. That it’s a lottery so anyone can do a show, that it’s run by people like Gideon and Kathryn and their staff who truly believe that independent theatre is not only important, but essential: these are things that bear repeating. I am especially intrigued and excited about the Bitchstorm series. I think that it’s important to be having a dialogue about why people outside of the industry aren’t coming to the theatre and what we can do to change that. So the first night of the series where some avid non-theatre-goers will be asked about why they aren’t interested in what we do is one of the not-to-be-missed Fringe events for me. As far as shows themselves, part of the joy of the Fringe for me is not having too much information and hopefully walking into some little gem of a play, (or something so awful that you can talk about it for years to come!) so I’m hoping for both of those things to happen. With any luck the former more than the latter. That said, for personal considerations I am officially letting all and sundry know that I will definitely be attending Mister Baxter and A Gentleman’s Club Fringe Show.

Bridge: Finally, your beloved Leafs lost out in the Brad Richards sweepstakes and had to settle for the less talented and oft-injured Tim Connolly. Have Burke and the Blue-Shirts made enough noise this off-season to get Toronto back in to the playoffs?

AC: I am going to take the optimists point of view– it’s really the only defense against a sea of shame as a Leaf fan– and say that had we acquired Richards he would have merely been the latest in a long line of players in their early to mid thirties who come to Toronto only to settle comfortably into the “disappointment” phase of their storied career. And if I may, with the all star game coming up and the Jay’s Jose Bautista leading the entire MLB in votes, it’s not a terrible time to be a sports fan here in Hogtown. How’s that for a deflection?

RATON LAVEUR opens Friday at 3:30pm at St. Vladimir’s Theatre (620 Spadina Avenue) and runs through Sunday, July 17th. For full listings, click here.

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