I’m not entirely sure what John and I expected when we went to An Evening with Uncle Val at Theatre Passe Muraille last night, but it wasn’t what we got. We were expecting straight up comedy, maybe even sketch comedy (as much as you can get in a one-person show). But this was more. Don’t get me wrong, it was very funny, but it was also, I don’t know… illuminating?
As John said to me after the show, it does an amazing job of evoking a sense of place. Uncle Val comes from a Newfoundland outport, but is now living with his daughter and son-in-law in the suburbs of St. John’s – and you really can kind of feel the suburbs while you’re watching.
I was introduced to a few Newfoundland traditions, learning things about other parts of the country is always really interesting to me. One tradition that really caught my ear was the Newfoundland recitation tradition. I also hadn’t thought how Newfoundland joining confederation would affect the culture and even day-to-day life of the province. I forgot how recent it was, sometimes I think I lose sight of the things that happened before I was born. But since they joined confederation in 1949 there are still plenty of people alive and well who were born in the independent Dominion of Newfoundland, not Newfoundland the province.
Throughout the show Uncle Val recites letters he’s writing to a friend in his old hometown. The letters are filled with quirky comments, but also interesting poignant ones. But the whole show is not these letters – Andy Jones makes several appearances as himself, not just Uncle Val. Some of these are detailed explanations of the origins of the character, and the context that this comes from – personally I really appreciated those – they made my experience of the character of Uncle Val more tangible.
Sometimes things could be a bit tough to follow as Jones went off on what feel a bit like stream-of-consciousness tangents; but, since they’re Andy Jones’ stream of consciousness, even though they’re convoluted and jump around a bit, they’re still very funny.
So, the show certainly wasn’t full of ‘sketch comedy’ type things, but nor was it a traditional one-man show. Andy Jones brings us a theatre experience unique to Andy Jones. Some straight-up comedy, but also a character that the audience can become invested in.
An Evening with Uncle Val was a straight-up pleasure, go to this show before it closes if you can.
– An Evening with Uncle Val is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave) until October 19th
– Showtimes are Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm with an additional PWYC matinee on Saturday at 2:30
– Ticket prices are $30 Tuesday – Thursday, $35 Friday and Saturday, and PWYC Saturday matinee
– Tickets are available at the door, online, or by calling 416-504-7529