This, Here: a good place to visit

 

David Bloom, Olivia Hutt, and Sara Vickruck are the three performers in Babelle Theatre's This, Here.

In This, Here, David Bloom, Olivia Hutt, and Sara Vickruck explore work, identity, and egotism.

In This, Here, the central character struggles with the alienation and egotism of making a living from your feelings, which is one of the downsides of being an artist

Alison, who is an actor, has lost her joy in performing. And her partner Maddie is just about ready to give up on the catering business she’s been building for five years: it’s going well, but only because Maddie is still putting in 60- and 70-hour weeks. To get a breather from their career crises, Alison and Maddie are visiting Alison’s father Brian on the Sunshine Coast, where he has moved and where he hopes to finish the play that he’s been working on for six years.

With Maddie in the mix, This, Hereis obviously about more than artistic angst: it’s about professional struggle and the ways that we define ourselves through our work. But the juiciest material is about artists—and narcissism.

Brian is a flaming asshole. If you don’t know what solipsism means, watch this guy: everything is about him. When Maddie speaks openly and painfully about her struggles with her business and tears well up in her eyes, Brian’s response is to suggest they read a play of his because Maddie’s dilemma made him think of it. When Brian’s wife died, the big crisis for him was how long it took before he could write about it.

That’s the kind of emotional obliviousness—and cannibalism—that Alison wants to avoid. Like writers, actors use their life experiences as fuel for their art and Alison has grown weary of treating her relationships as raw material for her performances.

Not that Alison is a saint. When she and Maddie arrive at Brian’s new home and the place is full of unpacked boxes, Alison moans to Maddie that she doesn’t want to get sucked into doing all of Brian’s work for him. But then she starts unpacking anyway—even though he hasn’t asked her to and even though he puts things back. It’s a deft piece of shading.

Under Marie Farsi’s direction, the whole cast is strong. Sara Vickruck’s Maddie is as real as toe jam, including when she’s negotiating the play’s considerable humour—when Maddie and Brian ingest cannabis oil, for instance, and Maddie starts watching Brian’s hands like a cat watching a twirling feather.

David Bloom brings so much offhand charm to Brian that a surprising number of people I’ve talked to about the show have asked “What the hell’s wrong with Alison? Why is she so mad at Brian?” Note to those people: self-obsession is an insidious form of parental neglect.

Olivia Hutt is wonderful as Alison. Watch her as she listens to the other characters: Hutt brings a fully fledged imaginative world to every moment.

The play ends three times and, to me, the final passage, which takes an unprepared-for plot turn, feels melodramatic and superfluous. In that ending, Alison is required to weep for too long.

But I’m grateful to This, Herefor taking formal leaps—Brian’s play takes on a life of its own—and for exploring subtle psychological territory with intelligence and commitment.

THIS, HERE By James Gordon King. Directed by Marie Farsi. A Babelle Theatre production in the Culture Lab on Saturday, July 21. Runs until July 28. 

Tickets.

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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