Punctuate! Theatre, in association with The Theatre Centre, presents the premier of The Particulars. Written and directed by Matthew MacKenzie, this tale of one man’s battle with insect invaders and a mysterious nocturnal entity is a thrilling blend of dance and storytelling.
Narrating his tale in the third person, Simon Bracken as Gordon remains aloof from us, yet always amusing and very present. With precise speech and decidedly theatrical gestures, Gordon draws us into the minutiae of his life. It is the details of this life, his routine at home and at work, that are so weirdly specific and endearing.
Gordon strives to coast comfortably through his mundane life, but this rigid lifestyle is threatened when aphids suddenly attack his garden. Stranger, perhaps worse, a peculiar scratching from within the walls keeps him up at night.
Bracken’s offbeat and beguiling persona is girded by the presence of seven dancers who offer an impressionist visual echo of his state of mind. Alida Kendell’s choreography here is intricate, though much effort has gone into giving the movement an organic, intuitive simplicity.
Draped in gauzy, full-length veils: Amber Borotsik, Lara Ebata, Bridget Jessome, Richard Lee Hsi, Krista Lin, Rebecca Sadowski, and Kate Stashko are an eerie presence and signal to us that Gordon’s experience is deeper, more fraught with dark potential than his placid demeanour suggests.
Set and costume designer Alison Yanota has extended this chilling notion into the space with a wide, iridescent backdrop that looms, shimmering, at the back of the stage. It catches the air and billows ominously out towards Gordon. These moments are used sparingly and the intangible menace they convey is unsettling.
As the aphid infestation and nightly scratching intensifies, Gordon and his rapt audience sense the oppressive weight of some vast, hostile force building momentum. He is compelled to alter his safe routine with results that are increasingly violent and destructive; this sends him spiralling. His loss of control is hilarious. Until it isn’t.
Gordon’s need for a rigid routine is gradually revealed to be a desperate, highly structured response to grief. And the particulars of his strange lifestyle have, then, a haunting resonance.
The Particulars begins as an off-kilter, one-man comedy of manners. It slowly, elegantly evolves into a nightmarish spectacle as suppressed anguish erupts and wreaks havoc. I’m still reeling from its final, heartbreaking realization.