Independent Theatre

Such Creatures by Judith Thompson - Incompletely Strangled

Judith Thompson's writing is hallmarked by its unwavering focus on difficult subject matter, and Such Creatures is no different. The piece consists of two monologues; an octagenarian holocaust survivor re-visiting the locale of her internment and re-living memories of her own revolt against the oppressor, contrasted with a teenage girl inner-city Toronto fighting her way through a single substance abusing parent, high school, and rivals. Each monologue unfolds, initially in longer sections back and forth, however as the stories and the plight of each woman unfolds, the overlap grows closer, calling the similiarity of their fear to mind.

This production, the first from new company Incompletely Strangled, and directed by veteran Arne McPherson does a fair job of introducing the two women to us; initially they are miles apart, yet as their stories grow, the space between their experience shrinks. Doreen Brownstone shines as the older woman, beautifully crafting her story and pulling the audience through each moment with a magnetism that is outstanding to watch. Although some pieces of the text were referenced from a script cleverly hidden in her stack of books, this did not impact her performance whatsoever, her clarity of intent pressing forward. The younger character was played with spunk by Gislina Patterson; we were taken along her journey of fear hidden behind a tough exterior. While she hits some of the tough notes beautifully, her performance at times could have benefited from a bit of simplicity which would have given the overall performance more shape. A difficult role for any young performer, Patterson certainly shows a gem of talent I look forward to seeing develop.

The production as a whole, however, felt stunted by design. The stage was split into two halves, divided harshly not only by light, but also a 6 foot chain link fence. The older woman's side remained static and clean, while the younger's side was littered as a playground, and also had projections on the back wall. For me, the division of the set meant that not only were the transitions back and forth a bit slow rather than a ping pong match between the two women's stories I would have liked to see, but also the overall feeling Thompson crafts - that these experiences are encroaching on one another, and at their core of fear aren't at all unlike one another - was lost. I would have liked to see both women inhabit the same space somehow. Additionally, while some of the projections were compelling, others were quite heavy handed in their imagery.

All of this aside, I did enjoy the piece, and look forward to what Incompletely Strangled bring forward next!