A Thousand Words (UnSpun Theatre) 2012 SummerWorks Review

There’s a phrase in popular internet parlance, often uttered incredulously in response to an outlandish statement, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” The phrase implies that photographic evidence must be produced to verify a claim. It’s the web-age equivalent of “seeing is believing.”

UnSpun Theatre and writer/director Chris Hanratty explore this concept against the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan in their SummerWorks play A Thousand Words.

The play opens with the lead character, an un-named attorney-cum-investigator (Clinton Walker), delivering a TED talk-style monologue about the origin of the show’s eponymous phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The saying can apparently be traced all the way back to Confucius … well, sort of …

He then sets off to investigate the origin of recently-published photos of two soldiers who were killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. The photos seem to implicate the soldiers in an Afghan heroine-smuggling ring.

Along the way he interviews a Private who served with the soldiers (Byron Abalos), one of their wives (Shira Leuchter) as well as the blogger who published the incriminating photos (Lindsey Clark) to try to figure out the source of the leaked pictures and piece together what really happened in Afghanistan.

Things aren’t always what they seem, as the layers of the mystery unravel the intrigue slowly builds throughout the course of the show to a satisfying conclusion.

Appropriately for the theme of the show, images are projected onto the backdrop of the set throughout the performance including one illustrative example where a photo of the audience taken at the start of the show is convincingly doctored in the expanse of 30 minutes.

While the show only glances the broader themes of the opium trade and the morality of the war in Afghanistan, Hanratty’s clever and compelling script focuses on exploring the nature of truth in the media and the way images can be manipulated and used out of context to invoke reactions, deceive and mislead.

Seeing isn’t always believing and you’ll just have to see A Thousand Words for yourself.


  • A Thousand Words plays at Venue E: The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen Street West)
  • Show times: Thur. August 9, 7:00 PM; Sun. August 12, 11:30 AM; Mon. August 13, 4:00 PM; Wed. August 15, 4:30 PM; Fri. August 17, 4:30 PM; Sun. August 19, 7:00 PM
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://ticketwise.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo credit: 

– Photo of Clinton Walker by Shira Leuchter