Canadian comedy duo James and Jamesy, a.k.a. Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles, have seen their audience makeup expand since they first hit the road with their imaginative, interactive seasonal favourite, O Christmas Tea.
Prior to a regional tour that brings them to Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, Dec. 15, the performers said they expected to see a strong family element at the series of shows.
“Since our first tour of O Christmas Tea five years ago, a range of ages have been attracted to the show,” Knowles says. “We will have three generations all together in the theatre loving the same thing, and that’s a real joy to me.”
Fringe Festival favourites with a handful of critically acclaimed original plays that fill theatres around the world, Malkin and Knowles met in Vancouver. Their chemistry is at the heart of shows featuring amazing physical comedy, rich wordplay, Mr. Bean and Monty Python-like quirkiness, and elements of the British pantomime tradition.
The participatory nature of the show lends itself well to family bonding, Malkin says.
“Christmas is always a time when families choose to be together. They get together for Christmas morning and to share a meal, and our show is another chance to experience Christmas together while witnessing others experiencing the show,” he says.
“My six-year-old is particularly enthusiastic about dinosaurs, and a scene where the audience creates dinosaurs is magical,” Malkin continues. “Dinosaurs are the ultimate bridge between make-believe and not make-believe. It’s so amazing that they once roamed the planet. They create a sense of timelessness. Noah’s Ark and the Titanic scene is another part of the show where the audience participates and discovers itself. It’s beyond a British comedy style, and it works really well with Christmas to create magic.”
O Christmas Tea fosters a spirit of play, Knowles says.
“Audiences are invited into the play, creating a sense of wonder and the joy of playing together.”
A veteran of clown and dance theatre scenes, the duo helped launch Vancouver’s In Jest Festival of Clown and Play, and their unique blend of interactive theatre will also be familiar to British panto audiences. They tour six months every year, and recent tours have taken them to sold-out performances and critical acclaim (multiple London Impresario and Canadian Comedy Awards) at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Off-Broadway at New York’s historical Soho Playhouse.
“Touring New York City and Edinburgh Fringe inspired us to add two new technicians to our show to augment the technical team and add to the sense of magic and illusion happening on stage.” says Aaron. “We keep doing this show because it’s hilarious and fun for us, too.”
For more information about O Christmas Tea, visit jamesandjamesy.com.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show at Surrey’s Bell theatre range from $19 to $44. For details, visit bellperformingartscentre.com or call 604-507-6355.