AISLE SAY  Toronto


Written and performed by Brooke Johnson
Directed by Allyson McMackon
Lighting Designed by Sarah Yaffe
Plays through December 6
Playing at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto

Reviewed by Robin Breon

A few weeks ago I saw the CanStage production of Frost/Nixon in Toronto (now closed) and was taken by the docu-drama (created by Peter Morgan) that portrayed the British TV personality David Frost (acted by David Storch) as an opportunistic gadabout looking for a big interview that would put him back on top of the ratings. He got the hard fought interview with  Richard Nixon in the fall of 1977 that featured a soul bearing ex-president who claimed he now realized that he had let his country down. One came away with the feeling that a clearly jubilant Frost has been dining out on the experience ever since.

This past week I had just the opposite feeling after visiting Brooke Johnsons poignant and tender, Trudeau Stories, at Theatre Passe Muraille. One got the distinct impression that the series of interactions (you could even call them interviews) that Ms. Johnson experienced after meeting former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1985, at a fundraising event for the National Theatre School in Montreal, were all deeply held memories that she had only recently decided to sort out and share. One just cant see the deeply personal nature of these stories being used as after dinner party pieces over the years.

Brooke Johnson even displays a kind of contorted, conflicted body language as she goes about giving us an inside look at this most perplexing and charismatic Prime Minister who served from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 84. Johnson underscores her own fragility in the whole affair (which remained completely platonic) while at the same time using the experience to filter through her own emerging angst and insecurity as she goes from theatre student to theatre professional. She is aided in this task by the gentle directorial hand of Allyson McMackon who never pushes the emotions behind the drama (or vice versa) too far.

By the end of the evening (the play runs just under 90 minutes) the more skeptical among us might begin to wonder if this fairy tale of a relationship was just that. Could it be a biographical embellishment, a contrivance for the sake of a solo entre into the summer festival circuit? Where is this all going to end?

Im happy to report that this haunting little tale does indeed have a lovely secret that it keeps right up to the very last line of the play. It would be a betrayal of the sacred trust of the theatre reviewer to reveal it here. Suffice it to say, that as the houselights come up, we are wakened like from a dream. Did it really happen? Did I really meet the handsome prince and dance with him at the ball? Yes, indeed and then some.

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