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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: Kayak remains a compelling journey

The power of the pen is undeniable. Whether dipped in the ink well of the political cartoonist or on the pages of a playwright’s manuscript, it has the potential to change lives forever.  With that power comes great responsibility, and as we have seen in recent tragic news, it can also have potentially deadly consequences.

And while it may be a far cry from the streets of Paris to the waters off the west coast of Vancouver, Jordan Hall’s ecological fable Kayak has the same potential to spark dialogue, create controversy, and change lives forever.

Sitting in a kayak adrift somewhere off the coast of Vancouver, Annie is finishing the last of her s’mores and trying to protect herself from the elements.  As dehydration and the sun begin to take their toll, she recounts the story of her son Peter’s infatuation with the environmental zealot Julie. Obviously not the life she had planned for her son, Annie fights against the woman who has stolen her son’s heart but who is too wrapped up in her next crusade to even think of returning that affection.

A remount of the critically acclaimed production from 2013, Kayak blurs the lines between reality and hallucination with a smattering of biblical parallels, but what is most surprising in its balanced presentation of the global warming dialogue is its humanity.

Leading that humanity is Susan Hogan as Annie, who manages to mine the depths of her character that is a unique combination of desperation, confusion, love and ultimately acceptance while trapped inside an actual kayak for the play’s duration. Hogan has found all of Hall’s layers within Annie and then some.

As son Peter, Sebastian Kroon plays the conflicted man with a surprising gentleness and Marisa Smith is wholly successful given the almost impossible task as the environmentally obsessed object of his desire. The only disappointment is not getting to know these characters as deeply as we do Annie.

Lauchlin Johnston’s suspended kayak still takes centre stage, with a backdrop filled with post-it notes (a representation of the world?) that in the penultimate scene is a visceral experience when combined with Malcolm Dow’s sound design.

Take advantage of second changes for Kayak remains a compelling journey.

Kayak by Jordan Hall.  Directed by Rachel Peake.  A Firehall Arts Centre presentation of an Alley Theatre Production.  On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre until January 17.  Visit for tickets and information.

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