House: scalding in the house that victor built
Jon Paterson in Daniel MacIvor’s award winning play House is mesmerizing and explosive. I left the theatre feeling like I needed a good stiff drink or a neck rub … preferably both.
Paterson plays Victor, the main character, as well as all of the other characters that come to people this lonely man’s existence on the knife-edge of sanity. Victor begins by recounting what happens at ‘group’, where his colleagues are a rag-tag collection of weirdos, alcoholics and enablers. Victor is “fucked-up”. You can either be weird, he tells us, which means you were born that way, or you can be fucked-up, like he is, which means you got to be that way sometime after you were born.
Victor’s is a tragi-comic tale; a sordid story of life lived in the flickering blue glow of a television tuned to the shopping channel. Victor isn’t overtly violent, but the seething rage he keeps bottled-up tight, threatens to break the fragile container of a man that he is. So unbearable is his torment that I felt ill at ease, tense and edgy, as if something really bad was about to happen, even though logically I knew that this was a performance, and I was perfectly safe.
Safe at home, a man’s home is his castle, his house a sanctuary. This homily hovers like a spider in its web, waiting for prey. Paterson punctuates the piece by rising to his feet, spreading his arms wide, and in the glow of a red light, shrieks “HOUSE”. As we go forward with him, we begin to understand the significance of this ragged mantra.
MacIvor's text pours forth like lava, scalding and relentless, and then settles into molten rock that held me pinned to my seat. It is funny only in the darkest possible way. I wanted to escape from Victor and his twitchy habitual gestures, the painful shards of hope he clings to even as they cut deeper into his flesh, the blood that pours out of him with each confession, and the inertia that envelops his pitiable existence.
When just shy of it’s ending, his story turns toward the light, I wanted desperately to escape with Victor, but I couldn’t. It was too little too late. Even as the final images of his monologue took flight I remained below, locked in the basement of the house that Victor built.
Not for the faint of heart, but highly recommended.
House is on as part of the Vancouver Fringe. For more information go here.