From the Fringe to the Rodeo

One-man show takes inspiration from relationship between Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick

Chris Gibbs is something of a familiar face on the Calgary theatre scene but unless you’re a regular at the Calgary Fringe Festival you might not have heard of the Ontario-based performer.

Gibbs has actually been at the Fringe three times in recent years performing a selection of one-man shows including The Power of Ignorance ; Like Father Like Son? Sorry; and Antoine Feval .

Stepping out of his usual Calgary Fringe playground Gibbs brings one of those shows Antoine Feval to this year’s High Performance Rodeo.

Gibbs says the story was inspired in part by Sherlock Holmes — and the relationship between Holmes and his sidekick Watson.

“I always enjoyed Sherlock Holmes but I always felt that Holmes could be lying to people. Nobody checks his work. He sounds clever he uses long words but no one ever confirms his work” says Gibbs.

“And I’ve always enjoyed the over-credulous sidekick” he adds referring to Dr. Watson.

In Antoine Feval Barnaby Gibbs is a fan of Sherlock Holmes who takes on the role of sidekick himself when he meets who he thinks is a detective.

“Barnaby believes he’s telling the audience the story of how he met a great detective one Antoine Feval and how he became his sidekick and helped him solve a case” says Gibbs.

“Barnaby isn’t good at anything. He looks at Dr. Watson who was an ordinary man who became part of extraordinary things as something of a role model. Barnaby feels ‘I could become part of extraordinary things too if I met someone extraordinary like Sherlock’” he explains.

The audience however soon discovers that Barnaby actually encountered a clever con man.

Gibbs says he’s not going for much in the way of plot twists with Antoine Feval which he classifies as a comedy. “It should be so obvious Feval is a con man” he adds.

As a writer Gibbs says he sets out to compose a story not a play per se.

“I was telling my wife the story of Antoine Feval in the car one day. It took around an hour-and-a-half. She said ‘You might have to shorten this.’ So I just took the first half of the story and that became the play” says Gibbs.

The second “half” of that original story is now The Further Adventures of Antoine Feval .

Gibbs comes to the stage by way of street performing in Covent Garden London. “When I was a street performer one of the first things I learned is your show is just an excuse to be onstage” he says.

“I play with the idea of doing a play. That’s what I do.”

Gibbs says he often performed as a “funny acrobat” while working as a street performer.

“I had 30 people watching me for five minutes. I spent time telling them that I was going to do a somersault up a wall. Everyone was disappointed that I actually did the somersault. They expected I wouldn’t do it in a humourous way” says Gibbs.

“People would come up to me and say ‘Your jokes are funny. That’s the best part of your show not the acrobatics’” he recalls adding that he started to transition into standup comedy and improv.

Eventually Gibbs started a theatre company with someone else which eventually lead to an indoor theatre performance at a fringe festival. He moved to Canada in 2002 and he has been actively touring ever since.