In the good ol’ days, Gustavo could set stuff on fire.
Back in ’92, on the European street performance circuit, he had a bit where he escaped a pair of flaming stilts. For some reason (liability insurance, perhaps), it didn’t go over as well in Canada at the time.
“It was way too edgy for Canadians, it was just too much,” says Dean Bareham. “They were like ‘I can’t take this.’ And so I had to fire him.”
Listening to Bareham talk about Gustavo the Impossibilist, it’s easy to forget that Bareham is Gustavo. The Calgary-based Bareham has been playing the part for decades now, albeit a bit differently since the “firing”. Which is to say he cut the pyromaniacism from the show and Gustavo, wearing a different-coloured skintight onesie now than he did in the 90s, started billing himself as performing “feats of unrealized stupidity for your pleasure.”
One thing that’s remained the same though, is that Bareham still talks about Gustavo in the third person.
“He’s not me. He’s this persona that is so absurd and outside of who I am.” Bareham pauses. “Of course, he is me. But he just looks ridiculous and spandex-clad and he’s this sort of nerdy superhero and antagonizer of children!”
It might seem like a poor proposition to develop a character for kids’ entertainment and build a minor distaste for kids into that character’s personality (one of Gustavo’s shticks is that he’s always fumbling things that make kids laugh at him, though having kids laugh at him is a thorn in Gustavo’s side), but it’s one that’s seen him invited to perform at plenty of kids festivals in the last couple of decades. Kids, as it turns out, love to see Gustavo, in his spandex and swim goggles, fail. They love to hear his high, nasally voice admonish them for being nasty children.
Locally, they’ll have that chance when he headlines the Midnight Sun Moppets Children’s Festival at the Yukon Arts Centre on June 11. Gustavo will perform at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., sharing YAC’s mainstage with a 12:30 p.m. performance from children’s musician Ginalina.
Tickets for performances are $5. All other activities at the festival — including cardboard castle building, a tie-dye workshop, arts and crafts, and more — are free from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It won’t be his first visit North. He had a great time here when he visited for a street festival in the early 2000s.
“People were lovely,” he says, then immediately recounts how one dad in the audience punched out a second, heckling dad in the audience.
Despite this, Bareham wants to see parents at the Yukon Arts Centre (he’s optimistic the formality of a soft-seat theatre will keep the dad-on-dad assaults at a minimum) along with their kids. From the rubber chickens and the sky-high shoulder pads, to the escape routines (fire has made its way back into his practice) and the audience participation, he’s specifically built his performance to cater to the whole family, including kids of all ages, as well as their parents. Both Bareham and Gustavo are excited to present that performance here again.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit yukonartscentre.com