One of our country’s most widely produced playwrights at home and abroad, Brad Fraser’s works typically feature a harsh, yet comical view of contemporary life in Canada, including frank depictions of sexuality, drug use and violence.
Fraser continues some of that tradition in his most recent work, the dark comedy Kill Me Now, which receives its Vancouver premiere from Touchstone Theatre in October.
Kill Me Now is the story of single father Jake, who is caring for his severely disabled son Joey. When Jake develops a serious medical condition, he becomes the one to rely on the people around him. As Jake’s condition worsens, an ethical dilemma troubles the household as everyone is forced to consider the possibility of saying goodbye.
In this Q&A with Fraser, we find out more about the origins of the piece and Fraser’s reputation for being provocative.
This interview has been edited.
What inspired you to write this play?
I read an ethics column in the Toronto Star years ago in which a father wrote to the columnist looking for advice because his severely disabled, teen-age son was going through puberty and was getting erections.
The father explained that his son was getting erections and made it clear, through difficult communication, that he wanted the father to masturbate him because the boy couldn’t do it himself. The father wanted to know, since he already cared for his son in every way, including holding the boy’s penis to urinate and wiping his ass, if the act of masturbating him would be unethical since the father already did so many intimate things with his boy.
I thought that was one of the most heartbreaking ethical questions I’d ever heard of and carried it around for years.
Many of your past works have been provocative, particularly in regards to sexuality, what compels you to provoke or challenge the audience?
There’s plenty of theatre being created that only reassures the audience of their already existing opinions and prejudices. I try to create the kind of theatre I want to see: theatre that’s compelling, challenging and sometimes difficult to contemplate.
I like to provoke people while also taking them on a ride of surprising emotion created through narrative ideas and challenging images.
The script for Kill Me Now was written a couple of years ago. Did you take the opportunity with this production to tweak the script?
No. It’s been published and has had a number of productions I’ve been involved in. Once a play is published I rarely touch it.
What is the part of the story that most resonates with you?
Because I had a very abusive, bullying father I wanted to create a story about a loving father and a challenging son. That relationship is the heart of the script for me.
What do you want the audience experience?
I’m hoping the audience witnesses a story they’ve never seen before and has to contemplate ideas that they rarely entertain.
My plays are meant to be, first of all, emotional experiences with plenty to think about after the curtain has fallen. Laughs, moments of recognition and perhaps an emotional release at the end.
Kill Me Now plays the Firehall Arts Centre October 13-27. Visit firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.