Canadian Stage presents reWork Productions’ Let’s Run Away, written and performed by Daniel MacIvor. This is MacIvor’s seventh solo show in collaboration with director Daniel Brooks. With their trademark elegance and simplicity, MacIvor tells the story of Peter and his offbeat relationship to an estranged parent.
We discover Peter’s history from his mother’s unpublished memoire. He reads key passages from this book and interjects frequently with prepared “rebuttals.” There are many colourful anecdotes that feature encounters with iconic celebrities like Truman Capote and Sid Vicious. We are given a taste of Peter’s odd performance art—a lip-sync recitation of Virginia’s Woolf’s To the Lighthouse—which reveals thematic echoes to his own story.
The mother/son dynamic hovers precariously between abandonment and obsession. Piecing together two lives from the fragments he provides, we share the duality of feeling that defines Peter’s relationship to her—we don’t quite like her, but her spectre is a fascinating and peculiar comfort.
MacIvor takes his time to reveal the context of the assembled objects and the fragmented readings. From the moment he walks on stage with an awkward precision, I was transfixed by his clumsy attempts to align the cumbersome reality of the stage space with his intentions.
MacIvor employs minimal, though very carefully chosen props. A shawl draped just so over a lectern. A battered manuscript with notes scrawled in the margins. A tacky amber neckless. The colour and texture of these objects feels resonant and purposeful; our relationship to them is both immersive and alienating. As MacIvor interacts with these things, the subtleties of his handling of each betrays them as the significant artifacts they are. They hold an intimate personal history even as they—and his behaviour—betray an acknowledgement of theatrical convention.
The performance is 80 minutes, but it flew by in what felt like far less than an hour. MacIvor has a startling ability to convey emotion and suggest a multitude of mental spaces with the subtlest of gestures. A word catching in his throat. The awkward clasping of an object. An unrestrained moment as he loses himself in some music.
Perhaps this is an appropriate place for an embarrassing admission: Let’s Run Away is my first-ever experience of Daniel MacIvor. It has left an indelible impression on me. I’m in awe of his ability to balance, with uncanny intuition, overtly theatrical gestures and persuasive authenticity. He grounds you with nuanced details to hold your attention and focus it.