Playful look at assisted suicide in Bea, playing at Toronto’s Factory Theatre
Last night was the Toronto premier of Bea by UK playwright Mick Gordon at Factory Theatre Studio. Given that I knew that it’s a play about a young woman with a debilitating illness who has spent eight years in bed, I took tissues. For quite a while I thought that I wasn’t going to need them.
The stage was in the middle of the theatre with the seats on two sides. The set was a large bed with a metal canopy, a ladder, and a chair. As we took our seats Bea, played by Baherah Yaraghi, was lying in bed not moving. She must have stayed like that for at least 20 minutes.
At the heart of the play is Bea’s desire to die and her physical inability to kill herself.The opening scene was a surprise. Bea stood up and danced energetically and joyfully on the bed, climbed the canopy, and climbed the ladder – dancing all the time. Not at all what I was expecting.
Ray, a potential career played by Brendan McMurty-Howlett, arrives for an interview. There’s a lot of word-play; Bea is quick-witted, smart, funny, and fast. Ray tries but he can’t keep up. Mrs. James – Deborah Drakeford – Bea’s mother arrives to continue the interview and we realize that Ray just can’t seem to stop talking. It makes the character seem like a lightweight and it wasn’t until the final few scenes that I began to rethink that assumption. J, my play partner also commented on this.
J is far more political than I am. In the Director’s Notes it says “Skillfully avoiding the traps of political advocacy…”. J felt that the question of euthanasia needs political advocacy. It really wasn’t addressed in the play other than Mrs. James saying that she couldn’t kill her daughter. I accepted Bea’s statement that she wanted to die at face value.
The play was about respect, dignity, and empathy. It also makes us think about being a parent with an adult child who is ill; what are you willing to do for your child?
For most of the play Bea isn’t in bed. The Bea we see moving and dancing around the stage, or climbing the canopy of her bed and the ladder, is the ‘inside’ Bea, it’s the way we know what she’s thinking and feeling. It’s much more effective than having her in bed all the time. We can watch the development of the relationship between Bea and Ray which at times is very playful. I don’t want to give away too much so I’m not going to describe specifics.
This is an excellent production. Everything worked. The actors were terrific, the set was perfect, the pace was just right. I highly recommend Bea.
- Bea is playing at Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst Street) until May 26
- Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm, Wednesday at 12 pm, and 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday
- Ticket are $20 and @25 and PWYC on Sunday
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416 504 9971, or in person at the box office
Photo of Bahareh Yaraghi by Agnieszka Dziemidok