This Is What Happens Next

by Lynn on May 8, 2010

in Archive,Picks & Pans

Writer-actor-director Daniel MacIvor has been a leading fixture in Canadian theatre for more than two decades. With his one-man shows he illuminates the lives of the hapless and the quietly evil. A few years ago he announced he was quitting writing and performing one-man plays for good and taking a sabbatical from theatre. But now he’s back with a one-man play called THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Our theatre critic, Lynn Slotkin is here to tell us about the show and what happened to make MacIvor change his mind about theatre.

Hi Lynn. Daniel MacIvor did announce with a lot of fanfare that he wasn’t doing this kind of theatre again. What happened to change his mind?

Love and divorce happened. He got married to his partner; closed down his production company da da camera and moved to the east coast. Then the marriage broke up. The lawyers cost lots and lots of money and he came back to a place that will always welcome him—the theatre. And he came back in a one-man show. His one-man shows always have multi-characters. They are also a complex weaving of story-lines. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT is no different in that regard. But I do detect a difference in philosophy from his other shows.

How so?

Daniel MacIvor seems intent on telling the truth, and he’s obsessed with happy endings. He rushes into the theatre from the audience lamenting he’s late and why… long line at the Starbucks.

He comments on his previous announcement that he wasn’t doing one man-shows and was leaving the theatre for a bit. And he does talk about the breakup and the lawyers and the wounded feelings. But then he segues into his search for the truth. He references Schopenhauer and his philosophy. Which leads into the lives of the characters that MacIvor has created.

There is Warren who has broken up with his partner and all he wants is his ‘stuff’ back, which includes a CD of John Denver songs. There is a drunken father, his seven year old son, twins in which one is transgendered, a harried, sharp talking lawyer, and you realize you are deep in Daniel MacIvor territory.

The stories are tightly woven, but he says that he seeks the truth in them. But then MacIvor does something out of the ordinary for him I think.

What does he do?

The stories seem to lead to disappointment and in one case, a horrific end. And then Macivor does a change-up leading the stories in another direction. Almost like a ‘gotcha’ moment. I found that to be a bit of a cheat. The story-telling is mesmerizing, but that pulling the rug out from under us was a broadside.

You say that the story-telling is mesmerizing, how is the rest of the performance?

Terrific. Daniel MacIvor has created this piece with his long-time collaborator, Daniel Brooks, who has also directed it. Both MacIvor and Brooks have worked separately creating their own theatre projects, but their best work is done together. And this is a perfect example.

The set is spare except for a chair and a pair of shoes. The lighting by Kimberly Purtell is stark and beautifully atmospheric. MacIvor stands absolutely still in telling the stories of the various characters. He changes from character to character with perhaps a change of stance or lighting, and we are always gripped.

Watching MacIvor tell his stories is like watching a spider weave a complex, intricate web. We are drawn in and drawn in until we are caught up in the tangle. And his sense of story and description are second to none. He describes a person being hit by a car that is both elegant and gut-wrenching. He creates the accident you can’t turn away from.

Your concern aside, do you recommend this?

Of course. MacIvor’s back. He is still at the top of his game, still gripping, wounded, angry and this time forgiving as well.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs. until May 8. The theatre is wheelchair accessible.