Timeshare’s Mockingbird was a wonderful way to start my exploration of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. There are 11 people in the cast – 11 people! And they’re all terrific. They all have significant parts; this isn’t a play with a couple of major characters and a bunch of bit players.
Playwright/director Rob Kempson’s writing shines here. The play deals with right and wrong and shades of grey. One teacher is having an affair with a student; another is having an affair with a student teacher. The play doesn’t try to provide answers, it raises questions and it’s up to the audience to think about them.
It’s a timely subject given concerns about curriculum and the changing relationships between teachers and students. Are teachers primarily mentors or are they primarily bosses?
It’s the kind of subject that could easily be presented in a ‘hit you over the head’ way. Kempson avoids this entirely.
It helps that his characters sound like real people who know each other well and care about each other; they interrupt, argue, joke, and discuss each other’s lives and choices.
The play is actually very funny – it’s a serious comedy, if that’s a thing, or a comedic drama. Laughter breaks the tension and gives the characters breathing space in the first act. The second act is more intense, but by that time I was expecting things to be more serious, so it seemed perfectly fitting.
Kempson’s direction is also masterful. He moves people on and off the set smoothly; the timing and flow of the action never seems interrupted. I keep thinking about the challenges involved in directing that many people. It’s a testament to Kempson’s direction, as well as a confirmation of the talent of the actors.
I also loved Brandon Kleiman’s set. The action all takes place in a staff room. The room is defined by five bookshelves with spaces between them that serve as doorways at the back of the stage. On the left side there are two rows of five chairs where the actors who aren’t part of the scene sit. It made me think of a jury.
The main part of the room has a table, a desk and office chairs. The props add the details that make the room seem real. People have water bottles, coffee mugs, and bring lunch from the cafeteria. They have papers to mark and tablets to work on.
For me, Mockingbird is the perfect show. Great writing, terrific acting, strong direction, a pleasing set, and material that makes me laugh, cry and think. Definitely worth seeing.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mockingbird are $15.00
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at the Next Stage Theatre Festival website
Photograph by Tanja Tiziana