Pathetic Fallacy: far from pathetic, but not riveting

promo photo for Pathetic Fallacy

It isn’t easy being green — but it comes with an invisibility cloak.


Conceptually, it’s cool and sometimes it’s pretty, but it’s not substantial.

Created in 2018, Pathetic Fallacy emerged from core creator Anita Rochon’s determination to share her theatre work internationally without flying all over the place and contributing to climate change.

Pathetic Fallacy, which is about the relationship between humans and weather, has been performed in cities around the world that now include Vancouver — but Rochon is never actually in the theatres where it’s taking place. Every night a different actor (of any gender) is invited to play the role of Anita. Performing in front of a green screen that drops them into various realities, that actor must also improvise, trying to point out the correct features on a landscape painting, for instance, much like a TV meteorologist points out weather systems. And sometimes video of the real Rochon pops up to have conversations with the actor playing Anita.

This is all groovy, not to mention ambitious. And onscreen, as Emelia Symington Fedy mixes the images live, the compositions can be lovely. In the iteration I watched, for instance, there was a time when I could see three rectangles simultaneously: a small blank green screen, a small green screen with the actor in it, and the fully fledged scene. The combo kept my eyeballs happily tracing through the variations.

I watched a digital stream of Pathetic Fallacy in which Jonathon Young was the performer. Young is so fully present, physically and intellectually, and so confident in his right to be onstage that he’s always a pleasure to watch.

But what is this structure supporting? As I see it, Pathetic Fallacy is attempting to be a theatrical lyric poem: its exploration of climate change is primarily associative rather than narrative. Rochon’s text riffs on all sorts of things including: the naming of tropical storms (people are more afraid of storms that have male names), early European landscape painting in North America, the evolution of TV weather forecasting, and the three-way between weather, humans, and gods.

That’s a lot. At the same time, it’s not much: the structure is so loose and the content either so familiar or so superficial that it doesn’t add up. I was never bored, but I was never fully engaged either.

Several times throughout the evening, Rochon asks, “How do you reconcile living on this planet knowing that your very existence is hurting it?” But she asks it with such sang froid it’s as if the answer doesn’t matter.

PATHETIC FALLACY Text and direction by Anita Rochon. Projection design by Candelario Andrade and Milton Lim. Created by The Chop. Presented by Rumble Productions. Viewed in a digital stream on November 26. Runs until November 29.  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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