As a kid, Rodney DeCroo got the shit kicked out of him. Fighting became a survival strategy.

It’s a gift.

In Didn’t Hurt, Rodney DeCroo shares stories about his brutal childhood and the resulting struggles in his adult life. But it’s not all grim; in fact, the most moving moments are the funniest and most tender. DeCroo is a gentle and engaging storyteller.

His dad was a Vietnam vet who passed his trauma on to his son by beating him with his belt buckle and punching him in the head. He, the cowboys who surrounded DeCroo in his early years in northern BC, and, later, the other traumatized teens who were his neighbours in a poverty-stricken area of Pittsburgh, taught him that being a man meant being a fighter.

Unsurprisingly, DeCroo has anger issues and complex PTSD.

To his credit, he hasn’t made Didn’t Hurt a simplistic fiction of personal triumph. There’s clearly been significant progress, but, for him, like for the rest of us, “healing” — he hates the word — is an ongoing project.

Emotionally, I came and went from Didn’t Hurt. Mostly, the material that hooked me was about DeCroo’s compassion for others. He tells a moving story about his gentle brother getting involved in a fistfight, for instance. And there’s a triptych of scenes involving little girls that resolves in simple and liberating beauty.

I feel like DeCroo could explain less, evoke more, and cut some time off his script.

But I’m grateful for this show. It’s about poverty and lack of education. The wickedness of war. It’s also about the brutality perpetuated by traditional gender roles; it counters the narrative that only women suffer the consequences. And it introduces the radical notion that maybe bullies should be forgiven.

In The Cultch Historic Theatre. Remaining performances on September 8 (9:15 p.m.), 10 (5:00 p.m.), 14 (5:30 p.m.), and 15 (2:30 p.m.)


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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