WRECK WEE EM
PHOTOS BY ANDY CARROLL
How do you run from what is inside of your head?
Alice in Wonderland*
* part of program note by Linda Kash
Director Linda Kash has taken what is inside Em Glasspool’s head and allowed a selection of memories and images (gathered together, written & memorized by Glasspool) to inhabit a performance space with breakneck physicality and vocal diversity that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The current full production (after a successful workshop production last spring) fills a third of Evans Contemporary and integrates itself into the blank white rectangular room with a simple and extremely functional set by Gabe Robinson. Robinson’s multi-levelled environment creates a simultaneous openness and containment through the use of several connected all black spaces that throw the performing body into sharp focus. The playing area becomes a classic example of the power of contrasting colour and functional shapes that the performer can rely upon as they traverse the stage and find diverse physical phrasing for each narrative act.
There are moments when the performer’s expertise at traversing and suddenly lying upon various expanses of the stage enhance the intensity of the narrative, keeping audience members engaged through a skillful combination of emotional courage and physical agility.
Kash’s dual role as director and voiceover for various subconscious characters ranges from cartoon like Big Boy utterances to a well crafted Sigmund Freud persona - all cleverly punctuated by a personified onstage lamp. Esther Vincent’s lighting occupies both small and broad strokes that beautifully support the overall sense of inhabiting a playing space fully. Lighting complements expressions of intimate narrative and opens up as these moments ultimately reach outward toward a larger sense of the issues at hand. Original compositions, mixed with a touch of Hank Williams, composed, sung and self-accompanied by Glasspool, add a wonderful contrast to the sixty-five minute spoken monologue.
The beautiful and poignant song Fallen Bird creates a perfect denouement as the narrative moves toward a climactic apology so crucial to ongoing recovery from addiction and mental health trauma. Followed by another original song, after a section of empowered lament, Glasspool’s creation, Resist the Resistance, simply and concisely tells a musical story about just how difficult the day to day process of keeping on track can be. Earlier in the show the original story/song Markdale/Glenelg Township becomes a crucial remembrance of things past that continue to inform the present. This sung tale evokes a sense of how specific incidents early in life can take hold, possessing both bitter humour and familial chaos that follows the subject throughout his life.
Requiem: An act or token of remembrance.I will never forget the experience of severe psychosis. I will never forget daily hopeless deranged addiction. I will never forget friends no longer in this living plain. This is a requiem - an act of remembrance - of events in my life, and of people that have touched my life.
Playwright Em Glasspool (program note)
As a self-styled requiem filled with a comedy and pathos that is injected with Glasspool’s sense of playful language, the title and many of the written lines employ rhyming and puns that sustain the intensity with a lightness and a power that co-exist with very effective performative intent. As Kash says in her director’s note, “This is not an easy story. Takes courage to tell. It’s been a great privilege to be on the journey and I hope its telling leads to good things. Maybe even great things.”
Ultimately the great things emerging from the final product of this solo performance become a form of ongoing catharsis and recovery for spectator and performer alike. Wreck Wee Em allows the audience to witness the pain - tinged with complex, good humoured momentum - that has taken hold of a single artist and allowed him to tell a story replete with childhood trauma, the creativity that a strong adult turns into a career, and the onset of mental health issues that continue to test the limits of personal struggles and successes. Watching Glasspool re-enact this and punctuate it with heartfelt sentiment regarding all of the characters inhabiting his mind and body evokes a roller coaster of diverse emotion. It is the kind of ‘entertainment’ that one is hard put to classify as, in fact, entertainment. It does succeed thoroughly on this level through a painful-cum-joyful and empowering sense of the artist’s creative spirit and force - “I am at my best and most well when creating theatre.” (Glasspool, program note) As a collective audience we are at our best and most well when we can see the onstage representation of personal struggle as the product of an empowered theatre act - like the many simple yet evocative utterances from Alice in Wonderland as a host of creatures, both real and fantasy-ridden, represent a mind & body trying to not run away from what is in their head. Pigs, pirates, and larger than life ‘Big Boys’ render Wreck Wee Em a strong-willed testament to the potency of art as a way of moving through, toward, and in, and out, of mental and physical turmoil. A varied and difficult road to ongoing recovery…
“Where should I go?” Alice
“That depends on where you want to end up.” The Cheshire Cat
(DIRECTOR’S PROGRAM NOTE)
WRECK WEE EM
AT EVANS CONTEMPORARY
UNTIL SEPT 30
- 2PM ON SEPT 30,
8PM ALL OTHER PERFORMANCES -