Not a Very Good Story

Stephanie is a self-conscious, self-effacing and very literal character who works in a call centre for a car rentals company. Sweet, funny and caring, she is also a very curious and determined person, and it is through her that we uncover the details of a horrific and inexplicable incident at her workplace. With the assistance of an overhead projector, no less.

May Jasper puts on a wonderful and nuanced performance as Stephanie. She is both charming and disarming, able to quickly win over the audience and hold their attention for the duration of this one-hour, one-person show. And it's a refreshing portrayal; often funny, but never making fun of this character who obviously struggles with social interaction.

I think the story here, which I'd rather leave unspoiled, compares quite favourably with the first season of Serial, and other works of creative non-fiction. Because although this is a fictional account, it is based on a real occurrence and advances much like a procedural. And, like good non-fiction, it doesn't feel the need to find a strong resolution in order to work. And theatre which does something unique and interesting like this is exactly what the festival is for.

But this show is also somewhat circumscribed by its own design. Jasper states in her press release that this is partly a horror story, which it certainly is, but Stephanie mutes those notes in her retelling. She keeps her emotions repressed, her happiness (and her sadness) barely revealed to the audience. By virtue of this, the performance is also constrained: the terror doesn't hit with much impact, and you won't leave the performance red-eyed and tearful. What works so well in the first half of this show, that is, also robs the second half of some of its force.

Not enough to dissuade me, though. This is still a top show.

★★★½