Rock, Paper, Jackknife… the latest production from Talisman Theatre will have you twisting in your seat, as playwright Marilyn Perreault explores the perversion of the human mind and the extremes it is capable of.
Beyond the perplexing dialogue, written entirely in metaphor and childlike phrases, the play has a profound message about solitude and the human mind.
Originally written in French, the play is masterfully translated by Nadine Desrochers and well directed by Emma Tibaldo.
Taking place over 32 days of confusion and chaos, the play follows four young stowaways who arrive in the middle of nowhere aboard an alcohol freighter. The youngsters are surrounded by blinding snow in a community of miners who do not speak their language. Fortunately one nurse, Mielke (Julie Tamiko Manning), does speak their language and proceeds to teach the group of troubled refugees the way of their new home, despite her own afflictions after having run away from a murdered family. The abandoned freighter is used as a classroom for Mielke to teach the four stowaways. Mostly narrated by Mielke, the play follows her efforts to care for the young refugees. Passionately delivered by Manning, Mielke’s sympathetic struggles are delivered with a truthfully painful conviction, as she becomes consumed by her role as their educator. Mielke, however, has issues of her own as seen through her daily battle with alcoholism. Ultimately, she is a woman fleeing to the outer extremes of the world to escape the secrets condemned within her. Responsibility ties her to these four characters and she becomes entwined in their collective web of individual insanity.
Bombarded with fast-paced scenes and distorted electric guitar, the plot follows the worsening circumstances of the five characters. The cluttered props of boxes and desks, the inside of the desolate freighter, captivate the audience rather than the theme that presides over this story which is rather remote.
The young refugees are played to perfection, especially Stephanie Buxton’s Ali. Her role is most impressive because Ali speaks in incessant babbling, which Buxton delivers with convincing realism. Seemingly the youngest of the four newcomers, she displays her endured hardship through non-stop chatter similar to that of a 10-year old child.
Ali’s giant of an older brother, Taymore, played by Alex McCooeye with rousing talent and remarkable presence, is her polar opposite. He remains silent for the majority of the play although his character, exemplifying repression and schizophrenia, proves to be one of the most disturbing roles in this glimpse of social disintegration.
Rock, Paper, Jackknife… plays at The Centaur Theatre from now until Oct. 17. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students.