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Friday, June 14, 2024

Theatre review: Mortified is magnificently multi-layered

World premiere from playwright Amy Rutherford will not be easily forgotten

Amy Rutherford’s Mortified is a magnificent exploration of a teenage girl’s shame around sexuality, after she experiences sexual assault at an early age. Packed with humour and a constantly transforming set, it is all topped off with synchronized swimming routines.

In Mortified, we are invited into a woman’s past, as she is confronted by Ty, a man who changed her life when she was a teenager. Her life has transformed so much, that she is frozen in an in-between state.

The play begins with a conversation between Girl and Woman (the younger and older versions of the central character), where we are witness to the reality of her experiences. We become invested in her life as her family moves to a new town, the first time she meets Ty, and the point which changes her perceptions forever.

The initial response walking into Studio 58’s theatre is one of delight. Pam Johnson’s set is gorgeous and strange: an empty swimming pool, stained with age it is ethereal. A teenage girl sits on stage and you are immediately drawn in. The set continues to seamlessly transform, from a school, to a car, to an underage club, with help from the chorus of performers. An abstract “floating” window and bed are beautiful additions to the dream-like play.

Members of the cast of Mortified in formation. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Members of the cast of Mortified in formation. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Director Anita Rochon has her hands full with a cast of over 30 young actors, and two seasoned professionals. Here she proves that a large cast does not necessarily affect the quality of the performance, but in fact works to enhance it. The ensemble pieces are strong and helps to create, among others, the world of a high school, an underage nightclub, and a synchronized swimming team. Painting the worlds for us, the ensemble describes characters and interprets the events.

Girl, played by Emily Jane King, has a sense of curious innocence that is earnest and makes all of her decisions believable. It is hard to keep your eyes off her.

Woman, played by Lindsay Angell, a Studio 58 alumnus, does a beautiful job of showing strength through vulnerability, as well as a necessary element of humour.

Young Ty (Isaac Mazur) and older Ty (Studio 58 alumnus Ian Butcher) portray this heinous character with a sense of humanity that opens space for the audience to understand where he is coming from.

There are a few moments in the play that feel like missed opportunities, such as the brief shower scene, and some of the chorus’ physical work that could be more affecting. That being said, the majority of the performance felt effortless and raw.

It is also important to note that the production has a female-dominated creative team, which feels necessary for this piece.

Taking on the suffocating feeling of a young woman dealing with sexual assault and trauma, Mortified does so with grace and humour. It is a beautiful and memorable piece of theatre that will not be easily forgotten.

Mortified, by Amy Rutherford. Directed by Anita Rochon. A Studio 58 Production, in association with Touchstone Theatre. On stage at Studio 58 (100 West 49th Ave, Vancouver) through December 2. Visit for tickets and information.

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