A hit of coke and a dose of Urban Reality

Somewhere in the realm of Plato’s ideal forms nestled in the “fringe” subsection there is an economical one-hander with scatological humour and sacrilegious zings on Christianity plastered with the adoring stars of 1000 divine critics. If this play existed its audiences would laugh themselves hoarse. It would make a million billion dollars.

Then there’s David Trimble. One of the most recognizable ducks in the cozy Calgary pond the prolific character actor is preparing to mount a production with Ground Zero Theatre that flies in the face of traditional fringe fare. Simply Urban Reality is a bit of a downer.

As its title suggests Urban Reality sees the first-time playwright return to some of the city’s darker recesses the kind seen in Trimble’s award-winning solo fringe run of Eric Bogosian’s Drinking in America in 2006. A two-hander featuring Trimble and Lena M. Davis Urban Reality begins as a young drug addict named Sandy enters a tattered apartment ready to buy and shoot cocaine. With her newfound dealer Jimmy seeming to play the voice of reason to Sandy’s desperation with offers of cold Kraft dinner and gentle words of advice (in addition to the cocaine) the scene soon twists into a cycle of dependence and abuse whose graphic climax offers some small hope of redemption at the cost of shocking brutality.

“It’s hard and terrifying” says Trimble of creating and assuming the role of a bottom-feeding exploiter. “(The play) goes to the darkest place you can go so it’s hard. You have to commit to it. The piece is so visceral you have to play it for real. But we’ll get around it.”

The play is based on the experiences of Trimble’s wife a former social worker whose ultimately tragic work with an underage prostitute led to her leaving the profession. Trimble is suitably upfront about the play’s message. In addition to the play’s clear social content one dollar from every ticket will go to Woods Homes’ EXIT Community Outreach Program that helps at-risk teenagers living on the streets.

It’s engaging theatre of the kind that Trimble prefers himself even if it doesn’t quite fit the mould of the traditional escapist fringe show. “For me in my taste I like seeing visceral theatre dark comedy” he says. “I love satire seeing past (the play) through it. For me what keeps me coming back is that I get it and I like it and it serves more than just pure escapism even though there is a place for that.

“Theatre is so visceral” he adds. “To see it live might compel someone to make a difference or look at (the disadvantaged) differently.”

For better or worse though any artistic decision always comes with commercial costs. Somewhere in the hazy world of ideal forms the perfect fringe show is still waiting for its box office-bursting revenues ready to dispense escapism and absurdity to an eager fringe-going public. Here in the physical world however there’s another ideal at stake. For Trimble the play’s commercial viability doesn’t enter into the equation.

“It doesn’t diminish what I honestly believe is the necessity of the piece” he says. “If you change one person’s perspective that’s more important than revenue at the door.”