With Lower Mainland gang violence dominating the news on a regular basis, it should come as no surprise it would soon become the catalyst for a theatrical production in Vancouver. What might be surprising though is while playwright Cara Norrish’s A Good Way Out deals with gang life, it is much more than an exploration of its evils.
“It’s about the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love, and provide for the ones we love,” says Norrish, who will see the world premiere of her new play as the season opener at Pacific Theatre.
Written as the final project as part of her apprenticeship with the faith-based theatre company, it came as a surprise to Norrish in finding out her play was going to see a professional production.
“One day I saw that my play was being sent to Emily Cooper for the artwork, and it was then that I figured out they were producing my play,” she says with a laugh.
Based on real-life events, A Good Way Out follows Joey, a hardworking mechanic and the front man for a biker gang. Joining when he was young, now at age 35, with a new family and new priorities, he begins to look for a way out.
“It was inspired by someone very close to me when I was a kid who died when I was very young,” says Norrish. “I had always thought they were so awesome, and I wanted to write this as a way to honour them, as well as to explore the feelings that I had around it.”
leven years-old at the time of his death, Norrish’s positive memories superseded the choices he made as a gang member.
“I remember them as a wonderful human,” she says. “Anyone in a gang is automatically labelled a horrible person but there was a light and joy they had. The things that they did for me and my family were very generous.”
Echoing stories from other gang members, Norrish’s inspiration for her play’s central character became entangled in the lifestyle after becoming estranged from his family.
“He had a family and that was so interesting to me,” she says. “It wasn’t the typical story of the lone wolf part of a gang. There was this period in his life where he was stealing cars and doing silly stuff like that, and had a falling out with his family. He met the leader of the gang and he finds the family that he needs and wants.”
Keeping in touch with his family over the years, they are aware Norrish has written the play. “Some have been so excited and cannot wait to see it,” she says. “But there are a few that don’t want to see it because it would be too painful for them to relive it.”
For director Anthony Ingram, the strength of A good Way Out comes in the script’s ability to lead an audience into a world that they might not otherwise give a second thought.
“That’s one of the things I love about theatre: it can throw light on the darker places of our world and give us a better understanding of what’s going on in places we would rather ignore,” he says.
A Good Way Out plays Pacific Theatre (1440 W 12th Avenue, Vancouver) from September 23 to October 15. Visit https://pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.