I, Claudia: Welcome home

publicity photo for I, Claudia

Claudia knows she’s a goof. Sometimes she doesn’t care. (Photo of Lili Beaudoin by Moonrider Productions)

I cried with other people and laughed with them. We shared the space with a skilled and responsive performer. Together, we all slipped into the land of deliberate artifice and came out the other side with our hearts bigger and, in my case at least, more relaxed. Last night, I was in the audience for a live performance of I, Claudia at the Arts Club’s BMO Theatre Centre. It’s the first show I’ve seen in a theatre in months. It was good to be back.

Kristen Thomson’s title character is 12 and three-quarters years old. Her parents have separated and her dad, her hero, is about to be remarried. Claudia struggles to stay buoyant, but she does not approve.

She spends Mondays with her father and, on Tuesday mornings, she has a whole week to get through before seeing him again, so she hangs out in the boiler room of her school to collect herself before going to class. She also stashes treasures down there, including her goldfish Romeo and Juliet and a collection of single socks she’s stolen from her dad’s place.

Drachman, the school janitor and, for the duration of the performance, a kind of stage manager and magician, introduces all of this.

I, Claudia is a solo show and, wearing a series of half masks, Lili Beaudoin plays all the parts in this production. Watching an actor transform is one of the fundamental pleasures of live theatre and we get a lot of that here, which makes I, Claudia an excellent choice for this time of theatrical re-emergence. Mask work also capitalizes mightily on the physicality of theatre.

And Beaudoin is a supremely physical performer. Her gangly, self-dramatizing Claudia is immediately engaging — in the heroic pose she strikes, for instance, when she brags about how street-smart she is. The movement with which Beaudoin endows Leslie, her Dad’s fiancée, comes from a different universe: Leslie’s movement is angular, sexual, domineering.

I, Claudia is a collection of monologues in which the characters speak directly to us. The rewards come in the surprises. Claudia’s grandpa describes a young Claudia doing a tap dance that involved very little tapping. Claudia tells us about an A+ she got for a poem about the serpent that lives inside her. The accumulation of disparate details pays off in depth.

I, Claudia doesn’t have a lot of narrative drive, so it starts to go slack about two-thirds of the way through and the grandfather character is almost completely redundant. But playwright Thomson ends her story on a sophisticated note that finds wisdom in suffering.

Beaudoin animates the masks, but Melody Anderson, who built them, endowed them with potential.

The production is handsome, and the script is smart and generous, which makes it perfect for this homecoming.

I, CLAUDIA By Kristen Thomson. Directed by Marie Farsi. An Arts Club Theatre production on the Newmont Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre. Viewed Friday, June 18. Runs until August 15. 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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