Image from JamesandJamesy.com

James and Jamesy return to the Okanagan

The comedic duo will be performing O Christmas Tea in Oliver, Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon

“An oaken noggin? A type of wood? A wooden head? Made of oak,” asked Jamesy.

“No, no, Jamesy, it’s the Okanagan! It’s a region; they’ve got wine and open fields,” replied James.

“James, please tell me they have tea!”

“Of course they have tea, but I’m sure they’ve never tried your tea, Jamesy.”

“James, we could have a tea party. We could invite the oaken noggin, we could test each of their noggins as they arrive, which one is the oaken noggin? We must have a tea party, James, to answer who has the oaken noggin.”

James and Jamesy, known as Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles respectively, are bringing their whimsical comedy back to the Okanagan with their holiday performance, O Christmas Tea. According to their website, their shows are investigations in participatory theatre merging physical comedy, clown and dance to create theatrical environments where audiences feel invited and compelled to participate.

O Christmas Tea varies from their other productions as being holiday-themed, but the pair noted the show is non-denominational overall so that people of all backgrounds will enjoy it.

“This show really celebrates imagination and friendship, and in my mind, that’s the essential part of what I think of as the holiday spirit,” said Knowles. “You get to come together and be in an environment that you get to play with the unknown.”

In partnership with David MacMurray Smith, James and Jamesy is a Canadian performance company that has sold over 60,000 tickets and has performed shows over 500 times across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Related: Aaron Pritchett lending a helping hand to youth

Their family-friendly comedy style is suitable for all ages and is sure to have audience members playing along inside their fantasy world. It is not uncommon for audience members to even take on roles in the performance as the show progresses.

“What we love to do with our performances is create an environment that compels the audience to play with us,” said Knowles. “So we wrote the show to entertain ourselves initially. We came about creating the James and Jamesy show thinking, ‘This would be so fun to do with an audience, do you think an audience could get on board doing this?”

Malkin and Knowles said they often see repeat audience members when they return to this area, and they frequently hear that people enjoy their on-stage personalities. The characters, James and Jamesy, often represent opposites such as the “proper and absurd” or the “inwardly focused and outwardly focused.”

“One thing that people time and time again say that they love most about our shows is the chemistry between us. There’s no fall man, we’re there trying to get into each other’s worlds and support each other,” said Malkin.

“Aaron’s character, James, lives in the real world and can interact with the audience in a very real way, whereas Jamesy lives in a world where imagination can take over at the drop of the hat,” said Knowles. “So the two of them represent the two sides of what I consider to be essential elements of British humour, propriety and peculiarity.”

Malkin said O Christmas Tea stands on its own and that the audience does not need to be familiar with their other shows to enjoy themselves. It does help, however, when the crowd knows to expect the unexpected.

“When we return to cities with new shows, people will share stories of things that happened in a previous show that they have in their everyday lives at home,” said Malkin. “For example, how Jamesy pours tea is something that is mentioned, and how people have made it sort of a ritual in their homes. Walking into that enthusiasm with an audience that knows the character is always a good start.”

“In O Christmas Tea, the world is transformed in so many ways, from being on board a gigantic ship to being underwater, where the audience is deep sea creatures,” said Knowles. “I’ve had people come up to me before and say they’ve never felt that they were a different creature, and people will say, ‘I was a sea anemone!’ after our show.”

The two believe their acts spread an important message of having “compassion for people who see the world through a different lens”, and that it provides a “reason to support the cause of coming together.”

O Christmas Tea will make its first stop in the Okanagan at the Venables Theatre in Oliver on Dec. 19. Next, they take the stage in Penticton at the Cleland Theatre on Dec. 19. On Dec. 20 the show stops at Mary Irwin Theatre in Kelowna and Dec. 22 people can catch their act at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre in Vernon. Showtimes and ticket prices can be found online at www.jamesandjamesy.com.

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