— Production poster
Vincent River is not a great play. But the twists Bob Frazer has given it in directing his osimous theatre production make it a great curiosity and a fascinating evening of theatre despite the heavy-handed, overly long, utterly predictable script.
The play is a tense two-hander: a young man and an older woman, somewhere in England, spend 90 minutes circling around one another in her living room. Anita’s son has been recently murdered, the victim of a gay-bashing. Davey found the body. After ten minutes the reveal is pretty clear, although it takes the play another hour to get to it.
What is worth watching here are the actors. As Frazer explains before each performance, he has a revolving cast of three men and three women, none of whom knows the identity of any of the other performers. He rehearsed them all separately, and only on the night of each performance, as they enter the set in character, do they get to meet the other actor—in character. After the show I saw, it was revealed that the two actors had never even seen each other before they did the show that night. They were literally meeting for the first time.
I can’t tell you their names because each actor plays multiple shows and Frazer doesn’t want any of them to know who else is in the cast, who else they might perform with on another night. It’s a pretty fascinating puzzle.
Knowing that these actors were performing this play together for the first time changed the way I, at least, received the show. I was much less interested in the story the play was telling than in the interactions between the performers, which were utterly impressive. The actors picked up each other’s cues promptly, established a clear relationship between their characters, and related physically and emotionally to each other as effectively as most well rehearsed two-handers you’ll see on a Vancouver stage.
I think part of the idea is that the freshness and spontaneity the situation creates between the actors compensates for the absence of any rehearsal time together. The night I saw the show, I was almost convinced. It’s definitely a worthwhile experiment. I just wish it were done with a better play.