The Power of Ignorance

"the funniest performance I've seen at the Fringe"
Review by by Liz Nicholls, Edmonton Journal

In a world where we constantly feel inadequate, confused, disoriented and abandoned on the technological autoroute, there is help and a joyful message at the Fringe. It is a self-help seminar on how to tap into the power of ignorance. Yes, mankind has been barking up the wrong tree all this time, questing after knowledge, seeking enlightenment. "Are you confused?" asks the silky-voiced, reassuring man onstage. "If you don't understand, you're already using your power of ignorance. ... Confusion is the boulevard to ignorance" (via "the rumpus room of endarkenment"). And perfect ignorance, as you will learn in the course of this exquisitely constructed, perfectly daffy architecture of logic by Chris Gibbs and T.J. Dawe, is what you need not only for success and happiness, but life itself. The assertions are provocative; for example, "without ignorance, everyone in this room would be dead." Vaguen (Gibbs, half of Hoopal) provides irreducible proof, numerous syllogisms, useful analogies, riddles, inspirational aphorisms (ig-mantras like "Duh" with deep breath) from the great ig-masters of history about how to rid yourself of unwanted knowledge and how to understand better the importance of a lack of understanding. Since only a tiny portion of the human brain is ever used, "isn't it better to rely on the 90 per cent that does nothing than the 10 per cent that's already busy?" This makes sense, and the man onstage has one of those silky, reassuring voices. He is here to help. There's a hysterical rigour to the process here, and Gibbs as Vaguen is the funniest performance I've seen at the Fringe. The Power Of Ignorance is bliss; join the ignorati.

"wicked, gut-busting satire"
Review by by Adrian Chamberlain, Victoria Times Colonist

If you're going to catch just one show at the Uno Festival, this is the uno for you. Penned by fringe festival darling TJ Dawe and U.K performer Chris Gibbs, this comedic look at motivational seminars is wicked, gut-busting satire. It will make you laugh - loudly.
Vaguen, played by Gibbs in a white turtleneck and double-breasted blazer with brass buttons, is a self-proclaimed master ignoramus. He entreats the audience to embrace the "power of duh," that is, the blissful state of ignorance. “Ignorance is limitless possibilities,” declares Vaguen, encouraging us to enter the "gateway of naiveté" and follow the "path of befuddlement." Sounds absolutely silly, but then, doesn't embracing nothingness sound like something a zen master might advocate … or at least a self-styled guru from Southern California?
Gibbs, who recalls Saturday Night Live's Chris Parnell in both mannerisms and looks, is a confident comedian who absolutely nails the smarmy charm of the worst motivational speakers. His theatrical, self-conscious style and obnoxious assuredness is exactly what we see on late-night infomercials featuring weasels promising to teach us how to get rich selling real estate. The absurd humour found in Dawe's own one-man shows crops up in The Power of Ignorance - there are bizarre, risk-taking tangents in which Vaguen alludes to his dysfunctional childhood, for example.
Gibbs's poise as a performer is reflected in his sharp ability to ad-lib. On Tuesday night he was able effortlessly to improvise jokes about passing motorcycles and late theatre-goers. It was hilarious (although it seemed less so when a certain theatre writer in the front row was selected for a lambasting).
Overall, this is one of the funniest shows I've seen in years. Cleverly written and beautifully performed, The Power of Ignorance is satirical comedy at its finest.

"in the top five of the funniest plays I have seen in nearly half a century of theatre-going"
Review By Janet Coutts, montreal.com

This is the funniest piece I have ever seen at any of the 13 fringes I have attended. Heck, it's in the top five of the funniest plays I have seen in nearly half a century of theatre-going.
It is written by Chris Gibbs and TJ Dawe, and performed by Chris Gibbs. Now why would TJ Dawe collaborate on a funnier piece for someone else than for himself? The only thing I can think of is that TJ is just too sweet on stage to show his mean side - and this play has some very black jokes about childhood abuse and puppies.
Even the program is funny, so read it to put yourself in the mood before the show starts. I was moaning in pain between bouts of laughter during the show. Really.
I won't spoil things by telling you any of the jokes. The program notes tell you everything you need to know. And ignorance is powerful.
This show is heading west to other fringes, so if you missed it, Go West, young (wo)man! It's worth it.

Brilliant mind came up with Ignorance
Review by Colin Maclean, Edmonton Sun

Fear not, gentle Fringer. Vaguen has arrived to save you from the pain of knowledge.
Vaguen, who was once Chris Gibbs of the Fringe favourite duo "Hoopal," champions, well, the power of ignorance.
The show begins in darkness with a voice rhyming off a list of absolutely unrelated topics. (He even gets into his shopping list.)
"What do these things have in common?" he asks. Well, they are all connected by nothing but, of course, the power of ignorance.
Vaguen then delivers his famous seminar on how ignorance can change your life.
"If you don't know what isn't possible, then nothing isn't possible," he tells us.
He even returns to the Bible to quote one Jesus Humphrey Christ who said, "They know not what they do." The basis of Buddhism, he points out "is the knowledge of nothing."
Vaguen did not come to his enlightenment overnight. He studied with the great ig-masters of the world and ignored everything they had to say.
He even gives us our own power of ignorance ig-mantra: "Duh!" He tries to help us out by using hypnotism but, alas, keeps putting himself under before he reaches the end of the procedure.
There are great pearls of ignorance here.
"Ignorance helps when you try to explain why your country went to war." "What you don't know won't hurt you and so the ignorant man is invincible."
Gibbs, (who benefits from the directing of uber-Fringe performer TJ Dawe) has the timing of cosmic clock, a subtle comic personality that finds humour in the smallest gesture and a fractured logic that can only come from a brilliant mind.
Brilliant mind? Gee, sorry Chris. I blew your cover.

"The Power of Ignorance is bliss"
Review by Christopher Hoile, Eye Weekly

"Stop thinking and start living!" That is the motto of The Power of Ignorance, a hysterically funny spoof of self-help seminars and the self-appointed gurus who lead them. Anyone who saw Chris Gibbs (pictured) last year in Antoine Feval at the Fringe Festival or in its run at the Diesel Playhouse will know that he is an inspired comedian with a sense of timing so perfect he can get a laugh with the simplest pause or gesture. The occasion for this revival of The Power of Ignorance (2003) is the recent publication of a spin-off pseudo-self-help book of the same title promising "183 pages of mostly new material!" The leader of the seminar and author of the book is Vaguen (Gibbs), Master of Ignorance. While in a mental institution, Vaguen was adopted by a group known as the Ignorati, who taught him how to harness the power of unknowing and sent him to spread ignorance throughout the world. We know that a little knowledge is a bad thing. We know that what you don't know can't hurt you. Building on such accepted commonplaces, Vaguen gradually reveals to the audience how we can overcome fears and obvious impediments to success simply by ignoring them. At 90 minutes it might seem that authors Gibbs and T.J. Dawe have stretched a single-minded theme rather thin, but they have, in fact, cleverly woven Vaguen's background story into the lessons he teaches. As Vaguen's seminar progresses he draws increasingly on peculiarly nasty episodes from his childhood, which he naively assumes the audience has also experienced. It soon becomes clear why the young Vaguen would have been drawn to a form of self-help based on tuning out reality. Gibbs gives a marvelous performance full of irony. He exudes an air of artificial suavity that does not fully mask the insecurity underneath. Bit by bit he shows how Vaguen's mispronunciations, malapropisms and unpleasant memories eat away at his fašade until we eventually glimpse the quivering milquetoast Vaguen would be without his self-induced ignorance. Gibbs's surprising acrobatics and the literally smashing finale will convince anyone that The Power of Ignorance is bliss.

"a fringe festival show at its best"
Review by Stephen Hunt, Calgary Herald

You know how, when you go to see a play at Theatre Calgary or ATP, how it's all very ritualistic and sort of classy? You know--latecomers will not be admitted because they would disrupt the performers and audience's attention? The seats are all upholstered? The subject matter oh so tasteful, serious--even the puppet shows around here are filled with classical allusions?
Now try a fringe show. In a church basement. On a day when it's 30 degrees out. The show is for adults, but a few of the adults have brought their newborn baby along, and really, well, what are you supposed to do with a newborn baby?
There's a lady in the front row who keeps dozing off right in front of the guy doing the show, but who among us hasn't felt a little downward tug on the eyelids at the theatre before? Naps count as an audience reaction.
Into all of this anti-glamour steps Chris Gibbs, a seemingly serious man, dressed in a black suit that's sort of boxy and quasi-1980's, wearing a tight, white turtleneck underneath. He is British. He looks a little like he might host a show explaining the nuances of financial derivatives, or the politics of the Swat Valley in Pakistan.
But no! He's actually a guy named Vaguen, giving a motivational speech about the power of ignorance.
"What's the most negative word in the English language?" he asks.
"No!" someone from the audience yells.
"And the most positive word is 'don't know!'" he yells back.
Vaguen is here in this anti-glam church basement to preach the empowering act of dwelling on that 90% of your brain that none of us use. He is part of a secret inner sanctum of ignorant men he calls the Ignorati. His message: in order to thrive in this messy, crowded world--even in a church basement full of babies who keep chirping at the wrong moment and the woman sleeping in the front row--one must get in touch with one's Ig.
If the baby happens to chirp out of place--and what baby doesn't?--Gibbs simply goes right along for the ride, incorporating the child into the show.
"Thirty years from now, that child will be sitting around with friends, saying, 'I've always really hated theater, and I have no idea why'."
When the dozing woman's head topples onto her partner's shoulder, Gibbs pulls a masterpiece of an improv out of that moment too, explaining that he was using his soothing voice to get the baby to fall asleep, only to have it work on the wrong person.
And then, just when the wordplay and intellectual gymnastics threaten to sprain your brain, Gibbs breaks into quite credible boy band dance maneuvers, or does a back flip that would make a Russian gymnast proud. He's as fine a physical performer as he is a verbal one.
And if you ever wanted to write a one-person show, this one is worth all the textbooks and MFA programs combined. Gibbs (and Dawe, who is the Godfather of the Fringe. T.J. Dawe is just a code for 'another five stars') take a premise that's basically an intellectual conceit, which is funny enough--but they don't stop there.
Throughout the show, little cracks appear in Vaguen's bad, '80's armour, as he gives us glimpses of the childhood of a little English boy whose mum was quite a bit less than nurturing. They come in snippets, sneaking in through the side door, but their cumulative wallop packs a more poignant punch than 90% of those autobiographical shows that many performers write that don't really serve as much more than a 55 minute long therapy session for the performer.
If you want to see a fringe festival show at its best, check out The Power of Ignorance. Saturday afternoon's show was one of the best times at the theatre I've ever had. It was so much fun, maybe Gibbs ought to start asking people to bring their children and narcoleptic partners to the show.

"painfully funny"
Review by Ron Robinson, CBC

TJ Dawe, "what, you again?" (he's everywhere at the fringe), co-wrote this 60 minutes of inspirational lunacy with Chris Gibbs. Fringe fanatics will recognize him for Hoopal and last years Gibberish, both top notch comic outbursts.
Now I put it to you that by the age of 25 we come to realize we can't know everything, some of us know very little. Oh, you have your areas of expertise, like minature plastic dinosaurs, all of them except the stegosaurus, damn Kellogg's, and we sent the ten box tops like they asked, and did they even send so much as a bloody note...as an example of the kind of lecture that Gibbs gives.
So, why not give ignorance a chance? Plead ignorance. Drift through life like Manuel in Fawlty Towers, "I know nothing". Travel down the boulevard of Confusion to the land if Ignorance. Learn to chant the ig mantra..."duh".
We've all been to a self- actualizing, motivational, invest- now -while- others- perish seminar, at one time or another in our lives. Gibbs as Vaguen is an amalgam of them all. And then bit by bit his childhood comes out as a factor in his search for ignorance. It is painfully funny, but with a hint of edginess, not to all tastes, I'll grant. The ending is "striking", that's all I feel I can say, but the laughter carried on as people were leaving the venue. Another smash hit at the Fringe.