Dirty times on the Prairies

If you don’t like filth sex and evangelism you won’t like PIG

Kristine Nutting is a theatre artist with vision. And while those visions might happen to involve sex gore and meat at their core is a focus on the Prairies. Or at least a version of the Prairies where revival tents hide crimson curtains and pork-loving evangelists (vegetarians beware there will be pig consumed and thrown in this production).

A one-time resident of the three Prairie provinces Nutting was born in Saskatchewan spent seven years in Winnipeg before graduating from the University of Manitoba and finally after graduating with a masters from the University of Alberta she has settled as an Edmonton-based artist. Since then she’s been waging a one-woman war to establish prairie gothic in festivals and strip clubs across the country and has made several prior appearances at the High Performance Rodeo. Her latest PIG: A Back Door Peep Show draws on memories of her Christian fundamentalist upbringing that go to the cellular level.

“The travelling evangelists I saw as a kid were like a travelling salesman” recalls Nutting who also performs in the show. “Their pitch at the time was prophesying and people being slain in the spirit and all the odd things that could happen in the church.”

“Something sparked in my head” she says. “And memories get locked into your muscles into your cells.”

It’s hard not to see the wild esthetic of an ecstatic religious service genetically locked into Nutting’s work especially with the gruesome literalism of PIG . In Nutting’s world a pair of exploitative evangelists named Harry P. Cjock (the “j” is silent) (Jesse Gervais) and Evangeline Evangelista (Joelle Prefontaine) sacrifice young girls figuratively and literally in their religious peep show all to the accompaniment of the show’s live four-piece band. Led down her bloody path of charisma lingerie and pork ingénue Saskatchewan Magnuson (Georgina Beaty) finds religion through a sales tactic even older than religion.

“In this version they use sex to sell Jesus” says Nutting “which I think is quite fun.”

Just after PIG’s première last year in Edmonton’s oldest strip joint the notoriously seedy Chez Pierre Nutting raised funds by throwing a burlesque cabaret called Meat Bikini: A Peep Show of the Prairie Perverse . And for the show’s Winnipeg Fringe run PIG ’s performers took to the stage of the Solid Gold Strip Club. Although the show has since played in more conventional spaces Nutting considers it most at home in a venue with a pole.

“It’s a harder sell for us” she says. “We have to work harder to break the separation between the audience and the stage.”

But if Vertigo Studio is a little more conventional than Chez Pierre at least the Rodeo is familiar territory. Despite being an Edmonton-based performer and playwright as well as an instructor at the University of Alberta’s Augustana campus Nutting is no stranger to the festival. As part of the now-defunct Mutton Busting mini-festival Nutting has already brought the story of an abandoned Saskatchewan girl in gumboots pining for Alberta ( Mommy: A Saskatchewan Rock Opera ) and a grotesque meat-filled take on Chekhov’s Three Sisters. She’s even played accordion on a Calgary Tower toilet for the Rodeo’s Sky High Cabaret.

But after years of bringing her particular brand of decadently shocking grotesquely amazing filth to the stage Nutting says that the time may have come to sheath the knives and the sex. PIG could be the death rattle for her particular brand of Prairie gothic.

“It’s to the point where people expect blood guts and gore. I want to return to what originally drew me to theatre to the characters that live in my brain” says Nutting. “I want to do a writing exercise that leads me to a writing process as opposed to meeting an audience’s expectations of fire tits and sex or fire sex and blood or whatever.”

“I wanted to create beautiful images” she says “but they ended up being grotesque.”

With a self-financed film project in the works and a Calgary appearance in March with Edmonton’s Brontoscorpio led by Edmonton rocker Curtis Ross (who also plays guitar in PIG ) the disappearance of Nutting’s gothic esthetic certainly wouldn’t mean the disappearance of this singular prairie artist. In the meantime though Calgary audiences will have the double opportunity to wallow in sexualized gore and maybe even slice themselves off a piece of the action. With nearly $5000 in costs sunk into her self-financed project Nutting is taking a page from the travelling salesmen-evangelists of her childhood by opening shop on the theatre floor.

“People should come with cash; we’ll have all sorts of things to buy” she says. “It’ll be like a Hustler Club. We’re selling everything from underwear to shooters.”