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SCRUTINY | Daniel MacIvor And Daniel Brooks Return With Intelligent, Challenging ‘Let’s Run Away’

By Paula Citron on November 2, 2019

Canadian theatre legends Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks latest collaboration is intriguing, subversive, provocative and unsettling.

Daniel MacIvor in 'Let's Run Away'
Daniel MacIvor in ‘Let’s Run Away’ (Photo courtesy of Canadian Stage)

Canadian Stage/Let’s Run Away, written by Daniel MacIvor, directed by Daniel Brooks, Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Oct. 31 to Nov. 17. Tickets available at canadianstage.com.

When theatre aficionados say Daniel and Daniel, they don’t mean a catering company. They are referring to Daniel MacIvor (writer and performer) and Daniel Brooks (director and dramaturg), two of the most revered icons of theatre in Canada. Both are Siminovitch Prize winners honouring lifetime achievement, with MacIvor also earning a Governor General’s Award for his writing. In short, they are Canadian theatre royalty.

While both have distinguished careers working on their own, it is the series of original solo shows they have created together that has forever linked their names. Let’s Run Away is their seventh collaboration, and this monologue is as intriguing, subversive, provocative and unsettling as the previous six. As with their past efforts, Let’s Run Away also possesses that off-kilter sensibility, that oddball take on the human condition, that wry look at life, that is a hallmark of their collective work. Their sophisticated, intelligent and challenging shows both confound and entertain at the same time.

At the heart of these solo shows are unforgettable characters, and the often strange life stories that they tell. In Let’s Run Away, MacIvor portrays a middle-aged man called Peter. We first see him lugging props onto the stage for a presentation he is about to give. He sets up two different lecterns and microphones, a window frame with a Venetian blind, and a bass guitar stand. Throughout the show, Peter communicates with an off-stage technician who is running the sound and lights, either giving orders, or carping about wrong cues. He is clearly not a seasoned public speaker, but he is on a mission to be heard.

Daniel MacIvor in 'Let's Run Away'
Daniel MacIvor in ‘Let’s Run Away’ (Photo courtesy of Canadian Stage)

It soon becomes clear that the two lecterns have very different purposes. At one, he reads from an unpublished memoir written by (as we shortly discover), his birth mother, and only those sections pertaining to himself (and there are not many). The second lectern, as he tells us, is for further information and rebuttal, where his intent is to correct or expand on the information in his mother’s journal. Peter’s greatest concern is getting the truth out there, and his modus operandi is crossing between the two lecterns.

MacIvor and Brooks never spoon-feed an audience. We have to connect the dots ourselves from the scattered information we are given, and that’s one of the fascinations of a D&D experience. It transpires that Peter’s American mother, who is never named, came from a well-off family, dropped out of college, got pregnant after a fling with a rowing instructor, gave birth in Canada, abandoned the child, and ended up consorting with the rich and famous in New York. Peter, on the other hand, grew up in a series of group and foster homes, ran away as a teenager to join a carnival, and is now a gay faggot, as he calls himself, who is virtually living on the streets.

The most important elements of the Peter/mother story are descriptions of their brief encounters, but the monologue is also filled with weird and wonderful snippets from both their lives. Particularly delicious is the incident involving the bass guitar. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (and the window frame) is also pivotal to their relationship. Accompanying the actual storytelling, are Peter’s often hilarious personal asides which add such flavour to the text.

Daniel MacIvor in 'Let's Run Away'
Daniel MacIvor in ‘Let’s Run Away’ (Photo courtesy of Canadian Stage)

MacIvor is one of the most natural actors to ever tread the boards, and the character he builds on stage is absolutely believable on every level. His Peter is nervous, short-tempered, irritable, driven, anxious and complicated, but always sincere, maybe even over-earnest. He also proves to be intelligent, insightful and funny. Peter’s life might seem the epitome of wasted potential and blighted promise, but his personal take on his vagabond existence is an interesting departure from society’s norm. Is he fooling himself, or do we believe him? That’s just one of the many curve balls that’s Let’s Run Away throws our way. And then there is the fascinating picture of his mother that emerges from his storytelling. We certainly would like to know more about her.

As always, at the end of a MacIvor/Brooks show, the audience has a million questions that will never be answered. We are given just glimpses of lives lived, but never the full picture, with the crucible of the subtext being the impact we have on the lives of others.

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Paula Citron
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Paula Citron

Paula Citron is a Toronto-based freelance arts journalist and broadcaster who hosts her own website, paulacitron.ca. For over 25 years, she was senior dance writer for The Globe and Mail, associate editor of Opera Canada magazine, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM, and dance previews contributor to Toronto Life magazine. She has been a guest lecturer for various cultural groups and universities, particularly on the role of the critic/reviewer, and has been a panellist on COC podcasts. Before assuming a full-time journalism career, Ms. Citron was a member of the drama department of the Claude Watson School for the Arts.
Paula Citron
Follow me
Paula Citron
Follow me

Paula Citron

Paula Citron is a Toronto-based freelance arts journalist and broadcaster who hosts her own website, paulacitron.ca. For over 25 years, she was senior dance writer for The Globe and Mail, associate editor of Opera Canada magazine, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM, and dance previews contributor to Toronto Life magazine. She has been a guest lecturer for various cultural groups and universities, particularly on the role of the critic/reviewer, and has been a panellist on COC podcasts. Before assuming a full-time journalism career, Ms. Citron was a member of the drama department of the Claude Watson School for the Arts.
Paula Citron
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