Who: Island Boy Public Journal
What: A Creature Is Stirring
Length: 60 minutes
Where: Mosaic (431 Barton Street East)
When: July 20-30 as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival
Tickets: $12 + $2.50/ticket fee at https://hftco.ca/events/a-creature-is-stirring/
When I think of what Christmas is all about, I’m not far from picturing Peanuts’ Linus asking for “Lights, please” and relating the story of the Nativity. According to comedian and storyteller Justin Shaw, this is not the best Christmas story. To him, the best Christmas stories are the ones that are about family and empathy- like Die Hard.
While the “is it” or “isn’t it” of Die Hard as a Christmas movie is overdone, Shaw is such a skilled storyteller that it doesn’t matter. He can hop from one section of the story to another, deliver an aside or piece of background information, scoot into a bunny trail and come right back into the narrative with every audience member still perfectly in tow. That’s a hard task for any seasoned performer, but Shaw accomplishes this deftly. He slips and slides through his one-person narrative without anything becoming muddy or unclear.
The narrative in Shaw’s story is completely true, he notes, with some modifications to the exact timing. The story is of Shaw, newlywed, and his wife as they journey through the holidays. His wife is meeting his family and going through a major transition- both of which are causing stress to Shaw. He is further stressed by the presence of a rodent in his apartment, the eviction of which (and complications and misadventures associated with doing so) are a focal point in the story. Along the way, we learn about a nearly-lethal first apartment, moving across the country, and how Shaw met his now-wife.
It’s all funny. And as funny as it is heartfelt, this is also a polished, masterfully-told performance from a clearly talented storyteller. I was kept intrigued by what would happen next at each turn in the tale of the rodent disposal. But most of all, I loved the heart of the story. Like Die Hard, it is indeed about family and empathy. It’s a true Christmish story, and although there are no miracles, machine guns, or words of wisdom from a blanket-toting grade schooler, this is a wonderful holiday story that will make you feel that spirit, even in July.