A postcard review of Bruce Horak’s Assassinating Thomson at Lunchbox Theatre

Writer Caroline Russell-King takes a look at Lunchbox Theatre’s latest production, Assassinating Thomson performed by Bruce Horak.

Show: Assassinating Thomson.

Playwright/composer: Bruce Horak.

Theatre: Lunchbox Theatre, co-presented with Inside Out Theatre.

Length: One act (55 mins.).

Genre(s): Storytelling (mystery interwoven with personal biography).

Premise: Speculation about the famous Canadian artist Tom Thomson’s possible murder is crisscrossed with stories from the playwrights past “coming out” as a blind person, an homage to his father and his personal research on Thomson.

Why this play? Why now?: The death of Thomson is now and will always be one of our collective greatest historical mysteries and when told from the point of view of a Canadian artist who only has nine per cent of his sight, it takes on a different perspective.

Curiosities: When a show that was developed as a Fringe show for Monster Theatre is now co-presented by two other theatre companies I wonder when is a show hosted, presented or produced? Is this a sustainable model for new theatrical works? Is something lost in not performing in front of art, as it was at the Glenbow Museum? Does it change the stakes in the heart stopping moments when paintbrushes loaded with new paint came dangerously close to million dollar art? 

Notable line: “No two portraits are the same.”

Notable writing: Each playwright falls a little in love with their subject matter, but I would proffer that researching, writing and performing this show has been life changing for this artist.

Notable performance: This Joseph Fiennes lookalike paints a story of intrigue and personal poignancy for the audience, all while actually painting their collective portrait. He is not a blind man who acts; he is a very talented actor who happens to be blind. 

Notable design: Four of the playwright’s own paintings which have references to famous and iconic paintings grace the stage.

Notable direction: Ryan Gladstone studied for 10 years under Keith Johnstone, which is ideally suited to the seemingly fluid nature of the show.

One reason to see this show: Besides Horak’s charm, the finished painting is auctioned off for the Alzheimer’s Society, so after the performance you could leave the theatre with a real piece of Canadian art by a painter who has broken into the world of fine art.

(Creator and Performer Bruce Horak in Assassinating Thomson, a co-presentation by Lunchbox Theatre and Inside Out Theatre. Photo courtesy Benjamin Laird.)

Assassinating Thomson runs at Lunchbox Theatre until March 2.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here