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Friday, June 14, 2024

Theatre review: True Crime … or is it?

The title hides a clue

Torquil Campbell, who wrote and performs the Arts Club’s presentation of True Crime, admits that he became an entertainer because he wants to be loved. To that end, he has compiled a ninety-minute-long cornucopia of personal disclosure, intrigue and murder, sprinkled with comedy and song.

However, the yarn Campbell spins is so complex, intertwined with all manner of loose threads, that it’s easy to lose sight of the fabric of the piece and it’s exhausting to pick up dropped ‘stitches’ along the way.

He amuses with seasoned comedy timing when he quips, for instance, that the theatre’s “fourth” wall is as fragile as Donald Trump’s Mexican one. He impresses with the power of his sonorous voice when he sings the songs he has written to move the story along. He also piques our interest when he discloses aspects of his personal life – as it turns out, an intrinsic part of the plot. But in the end, we are still left wondering … why?

His virtual one-man show was conceived and began its run at Crow’s Theatre Toronto under the direction of award-winning Chris Abraham, in collaboration with composer/performer Julian Brown who hides his quiet personality at the rear of the stage as he accompanies Campbell’s storytelling and songs on guitar, with an exact sensitivity that is unobtrusively pleasing.

The preset music choice of Ella Fitzgerald’s classic recording of “Mood Indigo” sets a relaxing atmosphere of nostalgia which is unceremoniously slashed by Campbell’s first entrance. He steps on the cool jazz with a harshness that feels like a snub when he sings his opening song, totally at odds with the notes Ms Fitzgerald had produced.

Campbell then embarks on a monologue introducing a fistful of characters who differ so subtly that at times it is difficult to differentiate between them. Thus the demand on the audience’s concentration intensifies as the ninety minutes tick by.

There is no break. In the cabaret styled set-up at the Goldcorp Stage of the BMO Theatre, with tables and chairs hugging the stage and with tiered risers on three sides above them, there is no chance of escape should anyone have need of any such break.

The main protagonist, whose name sounds like that of my favourite German mineral water, adopts aliases which Campbell, in turn, portrays. His only crystal clear transition is when he becomes a dog whose penetrating staccato bark is enough to jolt back into the moment anyone whose attention might have strayed. Campbell has a multtude of such tricks up his sleeve, from teasing us into disbelief, to identfying his mother in the crowd.

If, as he says, he wants to be loved by us, perhaps he should have chosen a subject that gives us more pause for thought … and less of a pause to try to fgure out what he is talking about.

True Crime created by Torquil Campbell and Chris Abraham, in collaboration with Julian Brown. Directed by Chris Abraham. An Arts Club Theatre Company and Crow’s Theatre production of a Castleton Massive Production. On stage at the BM Arts Centre (162 West 1st Ave, Vancouver) until February 24. Visit for tickets and information.

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