Dramatic Promise Doesn’t Pay Off
If it’s true that every writer has one great story in them, it remains to be seen if Yann Martel can ever out do his best seller Life of Pi. While Beatrice & Virgil may have caught the attention of international pulp loyalists, it’s a script that doesn’t effectively shape shift for the stage in its present form.
This alone is what gives Damien Atkins and Pierre Brault the honourable title of Bravest Men in The City this season. The highly gifted performers are true miracle workers in light of the material in which they have to work with and director Sarah Garton Stanley makes sure they have enough visual strides to give the presentation a relevant bearing.
On the surface, the story has dramatic promise when a failed author pays a visit to a taxidermist struggling to finish his play about a donkey and a monkey. Talk of character development, symbolism, and interpretation signals a level of intrigue regarding story expanse as hints of the animal preservationist’s questionable past begin to drop.
But a bleak meta foundation drawing dark parallels to Nazi atrocities in the Warsaw Ghettos is just about as drab as it gets. Add in the fact that some of the harsher passages are highly uncomfortable moments to sit through.
And when the two animals (also played by the aforementioned actors) continue to banter about pears and bananas, the end result gives playwright Lindsay Cochrane’s adaptation a suffocating ambiance for the emotional investment it asks of playgoers.
It’s a rare event to see such creative strengths come together to prop up a story that is better left on a book shelf. While theatre has the exceptional capability to pulling off many different things, it’s debatable if this should be one of them.
A hard lesson learned for Factory Theatre just the same.
Review by Jordan Allystair
BEATRICE & VIRGIL
Adapted by Lindsay Cochrane
Apr. 12 – May. 11, 2014
Factory Studio Theatre
125 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Tickets $23.00 – $38.00
CAST: Damien Atkins and Pierre Brault
DIRECTOR: Sarah Garton Stanley