Young Geoffrey (ed_rex) wrote,
Young Geoffrey

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10 Days On Earth

In January or February of 2001, I angered my then girlfriend Darcy by snapping my fingers in a light-hearted effort to get her to follow me through a brief break in traffic on Bathurst Street. Darcy did not appreciate the gesture, considering it disrespectful and condescending at best. We walked in tense silence to a bar around the corner, where we were to meet up with Neil (her old friend and now her spouse) before heading on down to the Canstage theatre on Berkley Street.

Darcy had been staying with me for a couple of weeks in order to save a month's rent, as she was soon to be on her way to Stratford and a job in the costume department of the Festival there. As sometimes happens, living together had revealed that the cracks in our relationship were in fact yawning chasms. Even before this particular snit I was counting the hours until she was gone.

I had picked her up at her work, a second-floor factory just south of Bloor Street, in which she laboured making costumes for The Lion King. I had been in good spirits, but her grumpy silence ruined mine - that I found Neil a prattling bore (one of those guys who will tell you everything you didn't want to know about, say, making wine) only made matters worse.

The three of us shared an uncomfortable beer, then took the TTC for our ride south, during which we managed to get into a ridiculously heated argument about the merits of the life-size moose then infesting Toronto's streets as some sort of tourist draw (Darcy thought them charming, I thought they were silly - at best).

By the time we reached the Canstage theatre, we were barely speaking and I could think only of how much I wished she wouldn't be coming home with me.

But Ronnie Burkett's marvellous play, Happy, took me away from my failing relationship. Working with wooden marionnettes, Burkett play was a revelation to me, by turns touching, hilarious and deeply empathetic toward the human condition. And his mastery of his marionettes was quite simply amazing to me - who knew that solid wooden carvings could be so very expressive?

Two years ago, when Burkett's next play, Provenance, came to Canstage, I had just met Laura, but did not feel comfortable enough yet to invite her to join me at the theatre (a decision I've regretted - in a small way - ever since, but there's nothing to be done about it now). Provenance didn't hit me with quite the force that Happy had done, but I was not disappointed.

Well, Burkett has a new play in production, and this time I sure as hell was taking Laura.

And so it was we celebrated our 1st anniversary as co-habitants (yes, another anniversary; please remove your claws from my oh! so delicate back, Gentle Readers) on Friday night at the Canstage theatre.

In essence, 10 Days On Earth is a simple story, about Darrel, a middle-aged mentally retarded man who lives with his mother. She dies in her sleep and Darrel spends 10 days alone, unaware that she hasn't emerged from her room because she is no longer alive. Darrel carries on his routine - he works at a shoe-shine stand, hangs out with Lloyd, a homeless man who believes he is God, and spends time with his favourite book, a children's book about Honeydog and Little Burp, who are searching for a home.

As before, Burkett's performance - as a voice-actor and puppeteer - is sublime. As before, his story is delicate admixture of both the joy and the agony that accompanies existence. While I really felt for Darrel as the days went by, and he grew hungrier and more lonely, I did so not because he was pitiful in his childlike innocence and ignorance, but because he was a fully-realized character, one that I cared about in a way that only the best art can accomplish.

10 Days on Earth is a small gem, a subtle, personal drama that nevertheless explores the universal experiences of love and loss, of hope and joy.

Burkett's show is like nothing you've ever seen before, Gentle Readers. Those of you who are in Toronto, call Canstage and book tickets now, before the show hits the road. Those of you who live elsewhere, keep your ears and eyes open and hope that he brings his production to someplace near you, before it is "retired" like his early ones.

10 Days on Earth is unique and ephemeral. You owe it to yourself to experience it.
Tags: canstage, darcy, morality, puppetry, relationships, reviews, ronnie burkett, theatre, theatre of marionettes

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