With Fringe in full swing, Sehar Manji and Lar Vi sit with me just across the street from Fringe Park to discuss how ‘Total Liquidation‘ came into being.
Total Liquidation tells of the friendship that develops between two hoarders, storage-locker-worker-rock ‘n’ roller Hamhock Velvet (Lar Vi) and egyptologist Stella Stackman (Sehar Manji).
In last year’s Montreal Fringe solo show, The Shadow Waltz, Lar Vi introduced us to Hamhock Velvet. This year, Vi says she applied to Fringe knowing she wanted a bigger cast and to revisit the character of Hamhock from the previous year. She tells of wanting to put him somewhere that would allow him to have free time, namely for music. “And then, when I started thinking about hoarders”, Vi mentions, “I remembered this solo piece that Sehar did three years ago,” as part of a solos workshop with Kirsten Rasmussen. “Yea,” Manji continues the thought, “And it was so weird, because that was the day I was going to get fired. And I was like ‘Hey, do you want to meet?’ And then Lar said, ‘Ok. I think everything is cosmic. And I wanted to ask you if you wanted to do a Fringe show with me.’”
Manji admits to having put that character to bed after the solo class, “I have no confidence. I’m not going to apply for Fringe. I can’t do a Fringe show. And I was shocked that she [Vi] remembered my character.”
Schedules, classes, work, Sketchfest, and life made coming together to create and rehearse difficult. It was a matter of figuring out how to do it since they both already knew the characters inside out. “In the original show, it was always about love,” Manji notes. “It’s always about opening yourself to love. And she was in love with the museum director. We needed a catalyst for this one. So, we changed it. Not to make it about another person. Not to make it about another character. But to be open to love in general.”
Vi parallels the process to the subject matter, “What I think is funny is this show is about people who are hoarding the past and letting it go. But also, we are taking creations that we made in the past, bringing them together and releasing them together.”
Both emphasize the importance of music for the show and life. With a bare stage, music fills the space and acts as a means of transportation from one side of these two’s universe to the other. With not more than a chair and a few jars on stage, they manage to create a world full of stuff with nothing in it. “Even with music. And even with selfies and stuff. Even though the objects are transforming, the desire is becoming more and more,” Vi defines the modern-day hoarder, “Instagram is just a thing of jars.”
Manji expresses her shock towards the overwhelmingly positive audience response they have been receiving thus far. “It’s a truth that everyone identifies with. It’s a universal feeling. Everyone has felt some sort of being held back, some sort of not letting go. People I don’t know were crying,” Manji explains with a stunned expression. She quotes an audience member from the night before, “It’s going to stay with me. The mind forgets, the soul remembers.”
The concept for the show stems from one of Vi’s standup routines from a few years back. “It goes into all these imaginative ways that you could liquify something… as a standup thing it went alright, but it’s so heavily conceptual that I think it’s a lot more fun for an audience– And it’s funny, because when I explain how it works, I’m just explaining the water cycle,” Vi shrugs as Manji and I burst into laughter. “Lar’s brain is really unique,” Manji tacks on. “I’m going to quote Al (Lafrance). And I think you should put this in there. Al Lafrance said that he would love to be roommates with Lar’s brain.”
“There’s actual pain involved. And I hate to say this, but I guess it’s part of growing up. I almost want to thank the negative stuff and the low points in life and the bullies and the people who just shat on me, for shitting me,” Manji authenticates. “Because through that, they helped make this positive creation possible and it wasn’t for nothing.”
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