This will be a strange show to write up…not that I mind strange show write-ups, as it usually means I get to do whatever the fuck I want.  But this was a pretty intense and out-of-the-ordinary night at the Magnetic North theatre festival.  The most theatrical moment comes at the very beginning, with a chalk rectangle being drawn on the floor around a table and two chairs.  Not a ring, exactly, but you can bet some violence would ensue within its borders.

Drawing the lines were show stars James Long (of Theatre Replacement, last on Ottawa stages at Undercurrents with the wonderful WEETUBE 5400) and Marcus Youssef (of Neworld Theatre, who recently helped get BLUE BOX to the GCTC stage), and the show (also produced with Crow’s Theatre) is called WINNERS AND LOSERS.  Directed by Chris Abraham, it takes the form of a very informal (to begin) game between James and Marcus, who walk on stage as themselves, no characters or costumes to mask them.  The game begins with topics being tossed out between both performers (Mexico, the Occupy movement, Tom Cruise, etc…) and each of them declaring the subject a winner…or a loser.  It all seems innocuous and amusing enough, with two very charming and witty hosts to bring us along for the fun.

James Long and Marcus Youssef, having 'fun'.  Pic by Simon Hayter.
James Long and Marcus Youssef, having ‘fun’. Pic by Simon Hayter.

But the fun doesn’t last, and soon the game turns personal, with James and Marcus increasingly digging at the other for issues related to wealth, family and entitlement, among others.  And this is where it gets absolutely fascinating and deliciously uncomfortable.  This piece blurs the line between the theatrical and the real like nothing I’ve ever seen, and while I’m sure the actors are, in fact, just acting (mostly…I think…) it nevertheless FEELS bloody real, to the point where when it’s all over you feel almost garish for applauding.  An experiment in realism that isn’t afraid to punch traditional stage boundaries right in the dick…this play won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it doesn’t get you thinking and talking you might be the Scarecrow in WIZARD OF OZ.    Huge props to the actors, and I’d love to compare notes with people who saw it on different nights.  This is theatre at its most real..and, therefore, at its scariest.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)


  1. Hi Kevin,
    I enjoy the blog.
    I saw Winners and Losers twice last week. I ended up very surprised by the difference and similarities. There were a number of things that I had assumed were improvised, but were in fact part of the show. This amazed me as I realized how natural the actors can make the dialogue. It felt “bloody real”.
    And the reverse is true is as well. The show actually ended differently each time (although it accomplished similar themes in each case).
    I’m a big fan of Theatre Replacement and I look forward to their return to Ottawa.

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