Undercurrents 2014 – BROKEN

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Whee, UNDERCURRENTS is here again, to make February seem a whole lot less bleak and cold, at least for a couple of glorious weeks, stuffed to the bursting with Theatre from all across this ridiculously spread-out nation of ours.  I’m just home from the second night of the 2014 festival (missed opening night due to rehearsals for my own upcoming show, which I THINK is a valid excuse), where I caught two great shows indeed.  I’m gonna post about the second one first, because it’s only in town for this first week of the fest and I want to get the word out on how wonderful it is toot sweet, you dig?  Don’t worry, the other review of the evening will follow soon.

The show in question is BROKEN, courtesy of Ramshackle Theatre, a gang based in the Yukon, earning them the title of farthest travelling Undercurrent artists to date.  A one-manner starring Brian Fidler, and directed by Maiko Bae Yamamoto (who was in the 2012 Undercurrents in the delightfully drunk WEETUBE 5400), this is, I kind of expect, the most intimate, honest and personal piece of theatre we’ll see at this year’s festival. A living love letter to the past, as told by William (Fidler) using a handful of objects that belonged to his grandfather.  His grandad, see, was a wartime photographer, mildly famed for one particular picture that became a Time magazine cover.  Back in the 1980′ s Granddad, at the age of 78, moved into the basement of the house owned by his son and his wife, and ten-year old William.  Young Will delights in listening to Grampa’s meticulously catalogued stories and watching his slideshows…Grampa’s methods of holding on to his memories even as they begin to slowly slip away from his mind.

Brian Fidler in BROKEN from Ramshackle Theatre.
Brian Fidler in BROKEN from Ramshackle Theatre.

Brian Fidler is a perfectly endearing and inviting storyteller, almost unassumingly drawing you in to the tale unfolding.  An old timey camera and tripod become characters in their own rights, and a hanging basement lightbulb metamorphoses into all manner of childhood memories.  BROKEN is a hauntingly beautiful look back at a disappearing past…the kind that didn’t get chronicled on Facebook, cellphones and HD images.  That’s not a dig at technology, I’m no luddite…but I remember slideshows, and boyoboy, this one took me back.  William’s happy recollections of his Grampa slowly begin to collide with less pleasant ones as the story goes on, and the importance of memory starts to really hit home.  Will even has a few tricks he uses to work his own mind out, to try and avoid Grampa’s fate.  I guess time will tell if they work out.  But in the meantime, I’ll have no trouble remembering this gem of a show, a beautiful and unique telling of an all-too common story.  See it (it plays this week ONLY at Undercurrents, and you’re a right dope if you miss it), and then take a moment or two to remember.  Something.  ANYthing.  Personally, I find myself with a sudden craving for Pop Shoppe Pop…which is good.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

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