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Standout shows from this year’s High Performance Rodeo festival

By Nimra Amir, Leonie O’Sullivan, Ansharah Shakil, February 15 2024—

Calgary’s international arts festival High Performance Rodeo, presented by One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre, has always sought to increase the innovation of the city’s diverse arts community. This year’s festival had a number of exciting acts, from dance cabarets to creative plays to musical performances. Below are a few of the highlights from this year’s festival that were not to be missed shows.  


Pearle Harbour brought her infectious energy and sparkling personality to the High Performance Rodeo on Jan. 31. Pearle showcased exactly how tragicomedy should be done in Agit-Pop!. Demonstrating her theatrical prowess, she kicked off the show with her unique version of Kate Bush’s “Running up That Hill,” delivering an important message to live in the moment. In a hilarious nod to the pandemic experience, she treated the audience with a lively performance of Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time.”

Pearle’s crowd work was a highlight of the show. She solicited the audience’s guilty pleasures and playfully dismissed the tamer responses, such as indulging in chocolate. An ice climbing enthusiast was humorously called out for sharing their “guilty pleasure” hobby when she cheekily accused them of mansplaining the intricacies of how water freezes. The engagement with the audience added an extra layer of entertainment to Pearle’s already captivating performance.

Entertainment aside, Pearle used her platform to address pressing issues. She expressed her dismay at the Premier of Alberta’s startling announcements on Jan. 31. In a critical display of inclusivity, Pearle made a land acknowledgment and took a tangible step by announcing a donation to USAY, an organization dedicated to providing programming and services for Calgary’s Indigenous youth. Urging the audience to follow suit, she emphasized the importance of supporting such initiatives. 

Pearle’s Agit-Pop! is not to be missed, offering a wonderfully cathartic experience and leaving the audience transformed into a newfound community by the end of the show.

Dark Purple Slice

Edmontonian Bruce McCulloch took the stage at the Rodeo on Feb. 1 to a packed audience filled with anticipation for their one-man show, Dark Purple Slice. The star from The Kids in the Hall also delved into the realm of tragicomedy and used musical performances as a pivotal tool for their storytelling. Karen Hines made a brief yet impactful appearance during the show and performed one of the songs alongside McCulloch. Dark Purple Slice, a rollercoaster of laughter and tears, thoroughly entertained the audience. 

Goblin: Oedipus

From the moment you enter the theatre, waiting to be seated, your attention is immediately grabbed by the goblins walking around — with what could only be described as a giant penis prop — asking the audience members who are in line for directions to the venue. The whimsical demeanour of the goblins who thrive on audience interaction sets an unconventional but dynamic tone that was to be enjoyed throughout Goblin: Oedipus, from the Greek chorus made up of randomly selected audience members to the conversation with who appeared to be the venue host in their objection of using the infamous giant penis prop in the proposed public orgy that would customarily take place before a play in Ancient Greece.

For newcomers to Greek tragedy, these factoids of Ancient Greek theatre, delivered in joke format, offer an accessible entry point into the complexities of the genre and in particular, the source material of Oedipus.

Yet Goblin: Oedipus in their homage to the source material of Oedipus does far more than just recreate the play that we have all come to know but instead, delves into the essence of the story through themes like fate or identity with a reflection of modern society. Of course, in jest, there were also jokes about the characters or the events from the source material but largely the jokes were self-deprecating to the goblins themselves who self-admittedly only just recently were immersed into the world of theatre — probably not unlike many of the audience members.

In embracing both the solemnity of classical tragedy and the irreverence of contemporary comedy, Goblin: Oedipus offers a theatrical experience that stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling throughout history. This was truly a show unlike any other that could be enjoyed by anyone from seasoned aficionados of Greek tragedies to curious newcomers.

If you missed out on the festival this year, there’s always next year, and there are still upcoming One Yellow Rabbit productions. Learn more about High Performance Rodeo and One Yellow Rabbit on their website here.

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