Thursday, March 30, 2017


By James Karas

Butcher is a play by Nicolas Billon now playing at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto. In good conscience, almost nothing should be disclosed about the plot so that people going to see the production will get the full benefit of its intricacies, and appreciate the total shock of the play.

I will deal with my conscience at another time but I will tell you as much as is permissible without spoiling your enjoyment and the surprises of the plot. I will give hints.

Hint 1: Read Agamemnon by Aeschylus.

Butcher was first performed in Calgary in 2014. The action takes place in a police station near the Toronto East General Hospital. It is early morning on December 25 and Detective Lamb is manning the station for the night. An old man wearing a Santa Claus hat and an army officer’s uniform with a meat hook around his neck and a lawyer’s business card attached on it is taken to the police station. 
 Andrew Musselman, Tony Nappo and John Koensgen in BUTCHER ©2017, Freddie Lau
The lawyer, Hamilton Barnes, has no idea how his card got on the meat hook but he is sympathetic and tries to help. An interpreter has been called in to help because the old man does not speak any English. The interpreter arrives and there is an explosion in the development of the plot that will keep you glued to you seat as your blood pressure rises to vein-bursting levels.

Hint 2: Read The Libation-Bearers by Aeschylus.

Detective Lamb has two daughters and Iris, the younger one, does not want to go to sleep because she is waiting for Santa Claus. He has Hamilton, the lawyer, talk to Iris as if he were Santa Claus and convince her that he will bring her presents only after she goes to sleep.

Elena the interpreter, it turns out, is also a nurse. She tends to the old man who is Josef Dzibrilovo. He speaks a South Slavic language called Lavinian which is comprehensible only to the characters of the play.

Hint 3: Read The Eumenides by Aeschylus.
Andrew Musselman, Tony Nappo and Miranda Calderon in BUTCHER ©2017, Freddie Lau
The twists and turns of the plot, the naked violence, the horrors we see on the stage and the even worse ones that are described make for a tsunami-force impact that will shake you to the core. You will realize one more time that “civilization” may be just a precarious veneer and that in certain situations there is not even a scintilla of humanity. Revenge becomes a mild word.

Hint 4: Read Deuteronomy 32:35
Hint 5: Become acquainted with the role of the Furies in Greek myth and tragedy.

The actors must reach very high levels of emotional intensity and maintain it for almost Marathonian lengths. Tony Nappo as Detective Lamb, the family man waiting to finish his shift and go home to his family, goes through a gamut of emotions and keeps a big surprise for us. Miranda Calderon as Elena the interpreter does the same with great effectiveness.

Andrew Musselman as the compassionate lawyer Hamilton has a number of surprises for us as does John Koensgen as the mysterious Josef Dzibrilovo.  You will also find out the meaning of the appearance of Kasey Nugent as a Young Girl.

The set by Yannik Larivee is that of a workman-like police station with filing cabinets and desks as a perfect, non-descript background for some extraordinary and at the same time perhaps very commonplace events.

All of it is directed by Weyni Mengesha in a fine example of riveting theatre.

If the Bible, Aeschylus and Greek mythology have not helped, you may ignore Hints 1 to 5 and jump the last one.

Hint 6: Go see Butcher at the Panasonic Theatre.

Butcher by Nicolas Billon in a production by The Why Not Theatre, opened on March 28 and will play until April 9, 2017 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto
Ontario, M4Y 1Z9. Tel: (416) 872-1212.

No comments:

Post a Comment