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The everlasting ‘who’s successful?’ debate goes onstage in ‘Winners & Losers’

Thursday 12th, January 2017 / 11:36
By Claire Miglionico

Photo: Pavel Antonov, courtesy of High Performance Rodeo

CALGARY — Marcus Youssef is the artistic director at Vancouver-based theatre company Neworld Theatre. BeatRoute chatted on the phone about Winners & Losers, a staged conversation between two friends on who/what is a winner or a loser that Youssef and James Long, artistic director at Theatre Replacement, also in Vancouver, collaborated on.

“A lot of people after seeing the show have described it as that conversation that you have with your really good friend after too many beers, really late, [as] it goes in intense directions,” says Youssef.

Winners & Losers has been touring the world for five years to places across Canada, Italy, Iceland, Denmark, England, Ireland and New York, where it stayed on Broadway for five weeks and beyond.

The whole concept for Winners & Losers came out of a mass email pyramid scheme that was sent out by Youssef’s friend. This email got Long and Youssef thinking about middle age, being a man and how we, as individuals, consider someone or ourselves a winner or a loser.

“We started talking more clearly about competition and how competition affects everything in a culture and primarily how it affected [Long] and I’s relationship,” says Youssef.

Photo: Simon Taylor, courtesy of High Performance Rodeo

Although putting someone into a loser or winner box seems two-dimensional and fairly benign at first encounter, the tension builds as strong diverging points of view become apparent and personal “attacks” are made to destabilize the other.

It was really hard developing it and doing it still is sometimes really hard because it changes all the time. We’re allowed to improvise and so Jamie will say something about something that happened that day between him and I. I will feel like that’s totally unfair and it will get real, very quickly,” says Youssef.

At the end of the day, although performing can become competitive and can bring out each others’ personal demons to the surface – as it may equally bring out our own – Youssef says both Long and himself have the shared goal of putting on the best possible show.

“The impulse for making the show is really one of mutual admiration and love and being willing to tackle something scary and edgy. I feel like our friendship is much deeper and much stronger than it was prior to going on this journey together. And I think that is because when we do go through things that could ultimately [end our friendship] but [we] figure out a way to deal with it and get to the other side, then it is clear [that we can] really trust each other,” says Youssef.

Catch Winners & Losers Jan. 25-28 at West Village Theatre during High Performance Rodeo.

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