BY JOSEPH MATHIEU
What it means to be human “livin’ at the end of the world” — that’s the self-described theme behind LOVE + HATE, a three-part play by Ottawa’s The PepTides, a nine-member pop group that will have its second showing this Thursday in the Arts Court Theatre on the first night of the Undercurrents Theatre Festival.
The PepTides’ move to the theatre stage shouldn’t be a surprise.
In concert, The PepTides have made it their mission to electrify audiences with a form of entertainment that seems perfect for the stage. The voices of Claude Marquis, DeeDee Butters, Dale Waterman, Rebecca Noelle, and Olexandra Pruchnicky harmonize dramatically without competition. Keyboardist Scott Irving, new guitarist Juan Miguel Gómez Montant, bassist Andrew Burns, and percussionist Alexandre Wickham play both nostalgic and futuristic anthems in the styles of blues, funk, and soul that get crowds dancing.
But LOVE + HATE marks a milestone for the nonet, because it represents a new stage in The PepTides’ evolution — from a solo project to a choreographed band.
In order to transition into a theatre troupe, the band hired a stage director to guide their efforts to fruition. As an actor and old hand at play production, Emma Ferrante was able to bring some established conventions of theatre to their play.
“We’ve been working so intensely for so many years on our own brand of theatre, that we’ve made our own world with our own rules,” said Irving. “The connecting of these two worlds, ours and Emma’s, has been an enriching artistic experience.”
The result is the mini-musical LOVE + HATE, which is composed of music from two of the latest PepTides albums: For Those Who Hate Human Interaction (2010) and Love Question Mark (2014).
The founder of the group, Marquis, wrote both albums as contrasting worldviews.
“When I was writing Human Interaction the scope was so big that I always thought of it as a soundtrack to a musical,” said Marquis. “I started work on Love Question Mark before the first album was even released.”
Scott Irving, the band’s keyboardist, wrote the play’s script that glued it all together. He acknowledged inspiration in the painting “The Raft of the Medusa” by Théodore Géricault. The play opens with, “Oblivion! Doom! Oblivious humans, cling to their ruins. Hold on!” In the painting, weakening bodies cling desperately to the wreckage of a ship just as the characters in the play struggle with their own fates.
LOVE + HATE is a “mini-musical” because it runs only 75 minutes without an intermission. The popularity of their inaugural Fringe Festival show last June encouraged the band to put on this second instalment. Thanks to the funds raised by a successful Indiegogo campaign, it will include brand new costumes, backgrounds, and props.
The PepTides’ message in LOVE + HATE is more sinister than one initially perceives. Pointed lyrics with dark themes are festooned by catchy and often uplifting instrumentals. According to Marquis, fans will notice a departure from their usual groovy renditions in the play’s songs.
You can catch LOVE + HATE at the Undercurrents Festival in the Arts Court Theatre Thursday, Feb. 12 at 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15 at 3 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.