Waawaate Fobister in The Crackwalker, photo by Joseph Michael Photography
The Crackwalker is an iconic piece of Canadian theatre, and undoubtedly one of the most familiar to audiences and students across the country. Countless drama students approach monologues from the play, embracing its surreal imagery and meticulous text. For many, Thompson may be the first introduction to a non-realistic style, given how bombarded and overwhelmed theatre students tend to be with TV and Films (AKA Naturalism) before they come to study.
Factory's Naked season present a new production of the play directed by the playwright herself. Now I have seen many productions of Thompson's work, and read everything she has written, and I can't say that I have ever heard a production that so clearly understood the rhythm, pace, and cadence of each character. One of the biggest challenges performing or directing her writing is the specificity of the language, and the fact that it is almost indecipherable on first read. Why are there capitals? Why does that sentence just trail off? Why does it feel like this character never stops to breathe? Under Thompson's direction, the characters' voices were astoundingly clear, and their natural rhythms unbelievably innate.
The production also benefitted physically; Thompson re-wrote some aspects, including the addition of The Crackwalker present throughout many of the scenes, playing an almost trickster role, facilitating some of the violent acts through surreal staging, and speaking many of his lines in Ojibway. This addition, while it absolutely worked in several scenes -- including the stunning and consistently shocking oven scene -- however at times his presence was distracting. That said, the further I come from the performance, the more I wonder whether that distraction was intentional? I'll never know, of course, but I do love to wonder.
The production runs for just a few more days, and I strongly recommend you see this energetic and talented young cast tackle a truly important piece of theatre.