It’s really hard to think about how to review a show that is one person’s intimate personal account and also when that one person is your buddy!
What is the “point” of a review, really? To dissect story-lines, to comment on acting ability, to hypothesize on direction choices? To muse on taste, on expectations, on exactly where a play sits in the current moment and how and why? I mean I can do that here but it almost doesn’t seem fitting for the bedazzling Gillian Clark and her one-woman show, Let’s Try This Standing.
Remember five years ago when a young Dal student was crushed by an SUV on Spring Garden Road when it came up on the freaking sidewalk? That was Gill. Broken femur and bruised kidneys and multiple surgeries later, Let’s Try This Standing is the powerhouse play born of her recovery. For 75 minutes we are witness to an attempt to process trauma, and therefore become part of the process itself. Gill is on a quest to come to terms with her life after the all-but-tragic accident, and part of that quest involves writing and preforming this play. She promises to tell the truth and transports us into her world.
Let’s Try This Standing is a mosaic of reenacted memory and reflective monologue. Gillian recounts her exact thoughts as the vehicle pinned her to a brick wall, she lifts her dress to reveal the scars and wounds on her thighs, she dances her beautiful heart out in front of a glossy projection screen… and in the very best moments, she melts away from performance, text, direction, theatre itself, openly sharing fears of long-term damage done to her body, divulging moments of egotism or vanity as her relationship with herself ebbs and flows, and in my favourite anecdote, recalls the brief and tender coffee date with the paramedic who quite literally saved Gill’s life.
The multiple shifts between ‘watching a play’ (albeit based on very real accounts by the person who lived it), and when the audience was truly, authentically connecting with Gill the human person, were palpable. Let’s Try This Standing’s winning moments exist when it dismisses the conceit of being a ‘play’ and exists in distinctly nonfictional connections. These moments come in silences, in Gill’s actual laughter, in non-presentational delivery. Occasionally the audience is given permission to ditch conventional structure and Gill evokes the feeling of having a spontaneous unrehearsed conversation with us.
The less Gill works and the more Gill is Gill, well, that’s when a huge crowd of people falls easily in love with her. She is such a bright light in our theatre community and in our city. To see her share such a difficult story and open her healing process to an audience is tremendous. The Gill we meet in Let’s Try This Standing can be brave, can be brash, can be positive, can be too hard on herself, can admit when she’s done something for attention or to be perceived a certain way as easily as she acknowledges the weight of her struggle and the progress she has made. The show is as much about a reconciliation of attitudes as it is a description of navigating the physical world after injury and trauma. In witnessing the former, the audience too can question their own judgements on themselves and others. What serves Gillian best in her recovery obviously fluctuates. How comforting and inspiring it is to experience that acknowledgement as an audience member.
Thank you, Gill. You are a gracious warrior and I hope we all can learn to see ourselves as clearly and honestly as you have demonstrated you can, in our lives and as we make art.
(Also please come over to my house to drink wine and listen to records as soon as your show closes, because I love you and you’re a literal boss.)
Let’s Try This Standing plays tonight – Sunday at Neptune’s Scotiabank Theatre.
Produced by Keep Good Company & 2b theatre, directed by Anthony Black.
Tickets are PYWC in advance, $20 at the door.
Friday & Saturday 8pm
There is an opening act at 7 pm (1 pm Sunday).
For more info visit http://www.tickethalifax.com/events/30591127/lets-try-this-standing
Photo by Mel Hattie