Theatre Review: Tournament of Lies at Halifax's Bus Stop Theatre

A Tournament of Lies (sometimes it's all about you)
By Bethana Sullivan

The best I can say about Tournament of Lies, a new play by Evan Brown, is that it generated a lot of discussion, post performance, as my partner and I discussed what it was all about. And that is a good thing in my book, that the questions it raised about life, how we live it, how we leave it and all the in-betweens, is a mighty big challenge to address in anyone’s life.

The audience laughed, sometimes hysterically; the actors ranted, laughed, sang, moralized, philosophized, ultimately leading us to the dénouement. The performances by the large cast (eight actors and a violinist) generated an atmosphere of intimacy; sometimes an actor would involve an audience member, one of them had someone hold their prop, an axe. This could also have been construed as threatening but somehow we knew the threat was only implied, as it was being laid as a stepping stone to understanding that life is full of multiple meanings. Each of us makes our own meaning of what we experience in the multitude of relationships embedded in the larger community/society. Relationships and meanings change as life impacts us- The author has been rich in his use of the multilayered meaning and cliché of what life is about. The only certainty is death, though death itself is experienced and influenced by all of us- the actors well representing this reality.

The process of this play is the eight characters dealing with the death of a community member in their own way through the lens of their past, present and possibly, future life. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone so suffice it to say, there is ‘an ultimate ‘message that Evan is offering.

I didn’t get the title, unless it means that in the author’s perspective, each character is a step in the process of coming to an end, offering a competing voice with the one before, the one ahead and the final voice being the winner - or each of us has to decide the winner. A conundrum existing in the mind of the creator.

The performances by the actors were varied, some better than others, with Hugo Dann standing out as a rich, nuanced actor, needing little in histrionics or even props-could have done without the axe. Eric Benson, playing the brother, was also a standout, with a sense of emotions tightly embodied in a finely tuned stereotype of a gay man. There were moments when golden nuggets of insight and delight were exposed from the ground of life, but they were were lost amid the detritus of clichés. It is worth going to just to pick up these nuggets.

Worth seeing for the enthusiasm of the actors, the challenging process of understanding what it is all about and the need to take the play a step further into your own life-and isn’t that what is all about anyway! Overall, an interesting play that seems to be a work in progress.

Tournament of Lies, presented by Us Vs Them Theatre Cooperative, runs for three more performances on Friday, March 29 and Saturday March 30 at 8:00 P.M; with a matinee on Saturdau at 2:00 P.M., at the Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottigen St. Halifax. For reservations, please email to book tickets.

Editor's Note: Photographs show Garry Williams and Margaret Legere playing Isaac and Felicity respectively; characters in Evan Brown's play, Tournament of Lies. Photos by Anita Teal Martinez.

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