Gustave and Nhar

New York-based performers Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman met in 1997 and began to craft an unusual blend of comedy, absurdity, tragedy, geography and accordion music that eventually became the two-man team of Belgian cabaret singer Gustave and his associate Nhar.

Gustave and Nhar

Harrington & Kauffman debuted their first Gustave and Nhar show, “Motel California” in 1999. At the time it was called “Hotel California” — prior to the cease and desist letter from Don Henley’s attorney. In 2002, “Nharcolepsy” followed. Each of these shows toured for several years around North America and the world. The duo spent most of 2009 developing their latest show, “Cabaret Terrarium.”

In this latest installment, a man is found inside a block of ice at the North Pole by Norwegian archeologists. They defrost him. He has no memory of his past. He has a birthmark of a frog on his belly, a matchbook from a night club in his pocket, and a microphone in his hand. And he has a thick Belgian accent. He doesn’t know his name, but he is sure of one thing: that he is a cabaret singer.

Cabaret Terrarium

When the man learns that his name is Gustave, he conjures a travelling companion: a new copy of his mostly mute friend and associate Nhar, earlier lost on the ice. Together, Gustave and Nhar travel the world in search of clues to the whereabouts of Gustave’s family and to his own shady past.

The actors in a shopping cart

In “Cabaret Terrarium,” Harrington & Kauffman reprise the roles of Belgian cabaret singer Gustave and Nhar. “Cabaret Terrarium” contains music, laughs, and wooden frogs, a combination that you’ll have to see to believe. Here’s a brief interview with Richard Harrington for this year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival.

The press release describes this play as “Jason Bourne meets Samuel Beckett meets Serge Gainsbourg, except Gustave and Nhar take themselves far more seriously than any of those guys, which is the key to Harrington & Kauffman’s ultra-deadpan physical comedy”.

Cabaret Terrarium plays at at Granville Island’s Performance Works Theatre on the following dates:

Friday Sept. 9, 8:30 pm
Saturday, Sept. 10, 4:30 pm
Sunday, Sept. 11, 12:00 pm
Monday, Sept. 12, 8:15 pm
Thursday, Sept. 15, 9:50 pm
Saturday, Sept. 17, 7:20 pm

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