The Titanic is revisited in a survivor’s story in Scotland Road playing at Toronto’s Papermill Theatre
A line at the end of Scotland Road says it all: “You’re nostalgic for a disaster you never knew.” Yes. We. Are.
Even after a blockbuster movie, underwater documentaries and interactive artifact exhibits where you pick a card that determines whether you live or die, we still trek across icy parking lots (how appropriate!) to a relatively unknown playhouse in the depths of Toronto’s Don Valley to witness yet another rendition of the Titanic story.
And indeed this one’s different. Scotland Road is about a woman who’s been rescued from an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic. Dressed in late 19th Century clothing, she utters but one word – “Titanic” – and ends up locked in a psychiatric-ward-like white room where a specialist strives to unlock her mystery. Is she indeed a survivor?
My companion for the night is something of a Titanic buff. “Astor, I told you!” she whispered at one point.
The play turns to Titanic trivia and projected images to test The Woman (Laura Vincent). Is she authentic? Is she a fake? Has the woman really been on an iceberg for 75 years?
John (West MacDonald) prods and pushes The Woman to reveal herself, while the doctor (Anne McDougall) – who also turns out to be something other than what she seems – attempts to preserve The Woman’s dignity.
There’s a lot of going on and off stage to explore this tabloid fantasy, even though much of the acting is more like a reading. Perhaps my experience was affected by my previous night’s viewing of Metamorphosis, where the highly acrobatic lead was literally hanging off the walls. This production could do with more action that’s not just in the characters’ heads.
Jeffrey Hatcher’s Scotland Road is set in 1985, making the oldest living survivor, Frances Kittle, played by an adorable Paulette St-Amour, 90-years old. The play was first published in 1996 – a year before James Cameron’s blockbuster hit the screens.
I don’t know for certain, but I imagine that two decades ago the world was not as permeated with the Titanic as it is today.
The “previously unseen images” that John projects onto the screen to test The Woman are now just a subset of magnificent footage. Leonardo DiCaprio has clued us in to the do’s and don’ts of who was allowed where. And a song attests to love on board the Titanic.
All that said, it’s worth taking the trek through Toronto’s icy winter to take part in another 90-minute exploration of a story that never grows old. We still don’t know all the answers. And we still get a kick out making up new tales.
- Scotland Road is playing at the Papermill Theatre, 67 Pottery Road, from Jan 30 to Feb 8, Thu-Sat 8 pm, mat Sun (and Feb 8) at 2 pm.
- Tickets ($22, seniors $20, students $18) can be purchased online or by calling the box office: 416-860-6176
Photo: David A. Fitzpatrick