Theatre Review: The Crackwalker

Theatre Inconnu is providing a rare glimpse into the lives of the destitute with their revival of The Crackwalker by Judith Thompson.

Bronwyn Steinberg, Joe Nicholson and Melissa Blank are starring in The Crackwalker by Theatre Inconnu

 

Theatre Inconnu is providing a rare glimpse into the lives of the destitute with their revival of The Crackwalker by celebrated Canadian playwright Judith Thompson.

Carpeted floor to ceiling and dressed up in retro logo t-shirts, The Crackwalker takes an intimate look at the lives of two down-and-out couples in Kingston, Ont., before the times of immediate cellular connection, access to instant information and education about deadly diseases like AIDS.

Their reality is one that is familiar, yet somehow disturbing; the need for love, friendship, housing and security and the money to get another smoke, drink, hit, or in this case, donut.

In fact, substitute those beers, smokes and donuts for heroine, and The Crackwalker resembles a Canadian Trainspotting.

Right from the get go, the audience is thrown into another world and another time — with it’s hair metal and hoser vernacular.

The story centres around Theresa (Melissa Blank), a mentally challenged, child-like woman with no home who loves the simple things in life like TV and sweets. Teresa’s miscreant boyfriend Alan (Joe Nicholson) is a little brighter, but no better off, as he struggles to keep a job and keep himself out of trouble.

They rely on the kindness of friends Sandy (Bronwyn Steinberg) and Joe (Julian Cervello) for a place to lay their heads at night.

As the play progresses the four characters work their way through their everyday realities and the issues that come with them; undiagnosed mental illness, domestic and sexual abuse, addiction, raising a family, abandonment and more. The result is a tragic tale that could have been both predicted and prevented — had these four people not fallen through the cracks in society.

But fear not. This play isn’t a total sob story. There are moments of comic relief interspersed throughout, especially from Theresa and Al’s naivety, often making the audience questions the roots of their laughter.

Director Graham McDonald was smart to go with an alley stage, pinning the audience on either side of a catwalk running straight into the double doors leading into Little Fernwood Hall. The result: it’s like the audience is looking into the mirror, watching the reactions on the faces of those seated across from them as part of the show.

While not part of the script, McDonald uses the cast who aren’t written into each scene as voyeurs (something he also used in Theatre Inconnu’s recent production of Simon Stephens’ Pornography) — onlookers to the train-wreck-about-to-happen, often with authentic looks of interest and enthusiasm (especially from Naomi Simpson who is outstanding in her role of Busker and various other street people) on their faces.

Each member of this five-person cast furnishes a convincing and persuasive performance, especially considering the incredibly difficult script they’re dealing with.

Julian Cervello deserves accolades for his performance, after stepping in to fill a hole in the cast just a week before opening night, and never missing a queue or fumbling a word. His Joe garnered more disdain from me than other characters who did much worse than he.

Nicholson as Alan showed a sweet simpleness that helped him literally get away with murder, and Steinberg’s Sandy was a familiar personification, showing her tough side and keeping her fragility hidden away. Blank delivers a touching and terrifying performance as Theresa, a woman who desperately needs help but chooses to settle for the status quo.

The inherent despair of these characters is summed up best by Sandy who at one point says “Being dead ain’t that different than being alive— it’s like moving to Brockville or Oshawa.”

Those looking for a real throw-back can check out the Saturday, March 10 performances when Theatre Inconnu artistic director Clayton Jevne will be taking on the role of Joe (which he played in Theatre Inconnu’s production of The Crackwalker in 1994), while Cervello is debuting his one-man show The Wyf of Bathe as part of Intrepid Theatre’s You Show. M

 

 

 

The Crackwalker runs March 8, 9, 10, 14, 15,16, 17 at 8 p.m.

And March 10,11, 17 at 2 pm at Little Fernwood Hall

Tickets at ticketrocket.org

Just Posted

Royal BC Museum set to launch its latest exhibition coup

Victoria institution’s new show on the Maya makes its North American debut May 17

VOS transforms the McPherson into a swamp for Shrek The Musical

Victoria Operatic Society’s musical theatre production appeals to all ages

UnoFest: Pushing boundaries and challenging audiences for 22 years

Annual solo theatre festival kicks off 11 days of inspiring artistry on May 1

Elegant waterfront gala to launch new Ballet Victoria season

Tickets still available for Spring Soiree on April 26: meet the dancers, bid on great auction items

Just looking, or buying? You can find that perfect art piece at Sidney show

Saanich Peninsula Arts and Crafts Society holding Spring Show April 27-28 at Mary Winspear Centre

Peninsula grandmothers salute Roaring ’20s fashion

May 3 event in Sidney benefits Grandmothers Helping African Grandmothers

Belmont secondary’s student-run bistro experiences opening-day rush

Culinary students serving up affordable lunches to fellow classmates

Sooke Community Choir offers up #modernlove

Sooke concerts run from May 3 to 5

Celebration of Light fireworks to feature two new countries

India and Croatia will compete for the first time, alongside Canada

Stephen Fearing brings unique style to concert series

Fearing will play Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Sooke on April 27

Sidney Classical Orchestra hosts former dean of Victoria Conservatory

Canadian pianist Jamie Syer to play pieces by Beethoven, Haydn at Saturday concert in Sidney

REVIEW: Symphony, Jeans ‘n Classic perform jolly good Queen show

Strengthened by UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the group performs tonight and Sunday at the Royal

Most Read