The Anorak, Daniel MacIvor moves on: History dramatized, history made

History dramatized, history made

Adam Kelly inhabits an everyday monster

Marc Lépine lives again in The Anorak, while da da kamera bids goodbye

First and foremost, Adam Kelly’s The Anorak is a strong, smart piece of theatre. That it is also a non-moralistic, unwavering look at a real person whose skin can’t be particularly comfortable to slip into makes it something of a quiet tour de force.

Anorak is simple. At least in principle.

Kelly, in a ball cap and the anorak of the play’s title, stands in front of us and talks. There are no mad ramblings here, no gratuitous verbal acrobatics. Rather, just an expertly honed voice that combines research and insight to allow us a confession (of sorts) from Marc Lépine, whose killing spree on December 6, 1989, at Montreal’s École Polytechnique left an indelible mark on the country’s memory.

Lépine, speaking from the other side of death, doesn’t ask for forgiveness, nor does he offer apology. What anchors the piece’s power is that even Kelly’s Lépine seems to realize that the best he can offer is a record of what happened – as seen through his eyes. There is no single cause at which to point the finger here, even for Lépine himself. Only that he came to see his destiny in the act.

What makes Anorak hypnotic is Kelly’s subtle vocal mask, flawlessly recreating the accent of a very articulate francophone carefully searching his English vocabulary in order to explain the course of events, if not how they might have been changed. It’s in the hesitations, the quirky word choices, the choppy syntax, that Lépine lives again through the Pierrefonds-born writer/performer.

With a pathologist’s reserve, Kelly lets his character be by turns vulnerable, annoying, misguided and right, so that Lépine and his innocent victims might continue to live unresolved after death, and in that way not be neatly packaged as a Tragedy and left to the realm of memorial.

In that way, Anorak is as courageously complex as theatre comes.


Last year, just before the Governor-General’s Awards were announced, Daniel MacIvor, nominated for his play Cul-de-sac, bet his money on John Mighton to win the $15,000 prize. He was right. This year, nominated for his anthology of five plays I Still Love You, MacIvor’s radar was just as reliable.

"I did kind of have a vibe that this was my year. You know, it’s for a book, and this is a substantial book. I thought if I was ever going to win it, it would be for this."

There is a possible irony in all the accolades in that MacIvor is folding his 20-year-old company da da kamera this year. But the playwright/actor/director/filmmaker doesn’t see a goodbye in the honour. "It’s more of a vote of confidence for moving forward. I want to look at different kinds of plays now," he explains of his kamera exit. "I have a funny feeling about this phrase ‘postmodern,’" muses MacIvor on the mantle often pinned to his plays. "I mean, how can we be postmodern when we’re still modern? If we’re anything now, we’re digital."

"Domestic" would seem to be a more apt description of the busy artist, who just got married and bought a house. "We just had a housewarming party which was kind of ‘MacIvor just spent $15,000 faster than anyone ever has,’" he laughs. "I want to set up a home for myself, so I’m going to do that for a couple of weeks."

That’s about as long as he’s willing to change gears. "Then it’s back to the madness. It’s a pretty nutty year," says the artist of 2007, as he bids goodnight to da da kamera in Montreal with a final run of A Beautiful View.

The Anorak
At McGill’s Players’ Theatre (3480 McTavish, 3rd floor), to Dec. 9

A Beautiful View
At Usine C (1345 Lalonde), to Dec. 9

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