T.J. Dawe has been one of the most sought-after soloists on the Fringe Festival circuit for over a decade, and his latest piece, Medicine, makes a compelling case why. Dawe's followers are used to the dexterous way he interweaves wacky stories from his colorful travels, but this painfully personal new work is somewhat of a departure from his signature "verbal juggling" style.
In a series of confessions that grow increasingly intimate, Dawe shares the story of his experiments with ayahuasca, a traditional Peruvian shamanistic psychedelic, in a quest to conquer his crippling panic attacks. Along the way, we learn of his loving yet limiting childhood with his Catholic high school principal father.
There are lighthearted interludes, when he tangentially rants against whoever messed up the layout of the QWERTY keyboard or our Roman relic calendar. But the bulk of the show delves deep under the surface of Dawe's stage persona to expose a terrified 3-year-old boy, still struggling for self-confidence. Eventually, he comes to understand that the mental survival strategies he's relied on all his life aren't who he truly is; they are just "a stupid friend who is trying to help" but is actually hurting him.
Tragically, T.J.'s opening night performance was prematurely cut off mid-climax by Fringe's strictly enforced time limits, leaving the audience with the theatrical equivalent of blue balls. I hope I can return after T.J. does some tightening so I can catch the coda, but I still heard more than enough to recommend this to anyone brave enough to peer inside the psyche of this wounded wizard of words.
Big Sandwich Productions - Vancouver, BC Canada
Thursday 17 May; at 7:45pm in the Yellow
Saturday 19 May; at 6:15pm in the Yellow
Sunday 20 May; at 4:45pm in the Yellow
Monday 21 May; at 11:00pm in the Yellow
Thursday 24 May; at 8:45pm in the Yellow
Friday 25 May; at 6:15pm in the Yellow
Saturday 26 May; at 6:30pm in the Yellow
Price: $11 + Fringe Button (good for entire Fringe)
Rating: Mature, Adult content and language