A scene from The Drummer Girl
In all world cultures, the one common musical element between them is a beat; a rhythm; a drum. From the djembe of Africa to the heavy bass of techno music, we are all familiar with percussion and its effect on our groovy well-being. How many of us non-drummers have looked on during a solo with admiration, envy, and awe at the utter release of creative energy before us, wondering how we, too, could look so graceful while having all of our limbs flail in various directions at various times?
In The Drummer Girl, Lauri Lyster, a percussionist whose interests have ranged from classical to New Age music, takes the stage to give us an insight into her world. While we don’t get the chops of Dave Grohl overnight, we learn about Lauri’s personal experiences, from the professional sphere of the drummer-for-hire and the many gigs she has done, to being a mother and woman who brings that same passion for music into the rest of her life. Combining her incredible musical talent with an innate storytelling ability, Lauri takes us on a journey through her childhood to the present, weaving a trail of humorous mischief throughout.
Through the course of two and a half hours, we learn many different things about Lauri: how her father predicted she was destined to be a drummer, how music has shaped her life and found her love, how she finds a meaningful rhythm even in traffic jams and perhaps most importantly, how a self-proclaimed obsessive-compulsive keeper of the beat does Zumba. Lauri never fails to interact with the audience, keeping the atmosphere light, relaxed and festive. Indeed, it is a celebration of Lauri’s life, and she brings us along for the party, making the theatre feel like a casual club, or even a gathering in her backyard.
With the aid of her band (including her husband and gleeful co-conspirator in many of her exploits, Simon Stribling), Lauri incorporates a number of songs through the show, ranging from self-composed Celtic rock to soulful jazz standards to an incredibly entertaining one-man performance of baby toys strewn about the floor. The whole band is incredibly talented – it seemed like everyone in the ensemble plays at least four different instruments – but what was palpable was the sense of camaraderie everyone shared. It gave the show a very special kind of feeling, like we were not only seeing a performance of professionals but a gathering of good friends.
Being a music nerd, I appreciated the amount of musical detail Lauri brought to the show. Talking about how rhythm and melody have governed her life resonate with me, as did her comedic recap of a night’s work for a triangle player at the opera. However, Lauri makes sure to make those jokes accessible to even those who believe themselves tone deaf, and the whole audience was kept somewhere between smiling lightly and in stitches.
The Drummer Girl is part monologue, part concert, part random impromptu gig. Indeed, it feels like you get a brief sampler of Lauri’s personal philosophy, from her passion for women’s and girl’s rights, to her personal feeling for various types of music, to various vignettes about why one should not date male drummers. With these little bites, you are swept up in her chaotic fun, and what shines through is Lauri’s cheer for her calling in life. You can feel the smile in her playing, just as readily and as clearly as when she winds up her next anecdote. As she winds up to play the next drum roll, you’re right there with her, cheering her through her next crazy endeavor.
And, hopefully, hearing about it in the next show she does.
The Drummer Girl is on at the Firehall Arts Centre until February 22. Details can be found at http://firehallartscentre.ca/onstage/the-drummer-girl/.