15 October 2008


I understand why Richard Ouzounian, theatre "critic" for the Toronto Star, disliked the play Scratch, playing currently at Factory Theatre. It is not pretty, nor tidy, nor is it fun for the whole family. All qualities he admires.
It is messy and uncomfortable. In it people ache and hurt so openly that it is painful to watch. In their pain, these characters behave inappropriately, indeed badly, toward one another. Wanting to smack down the main character, a 15 year old girl with a dying mother, is not a comfortable feeling to have as an audience member. Asserting, as Mr. Ouzounian does, that this is somehow the playwright's fault, that the protagonist should have been more "likeable", says more about him than it does about the gifts of the writer, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman. For she is gifted. This is a poem, a love song to her mother and to her own younger self. The language is spare and true.
Here are people struggling so deeply with loss, that they are unable to meet each other's needs. The Father, grieving for his beloved wife, cannot help his daughter. The Aunt who has always relied on being useful, but is rejected and therefore lost. The best friend, a budding artist, who wants to say good-bye to her mentor but cannot because she is not "family". Even the Mother doesn't have the decency to die in nice, movie-of-the-week fashion, refusing to "waste her energy on making them feel better."
And Anna, self-centred yet, so lost, so infuriating. For Charlotte to play her fictionalized self this way is brave and heart wrenching.
Read Layne Coleman's article:
Read Carole Corbeil's work if you can find it.
Go see Scratch.

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