My take: Sargent & Victor & Me

Last Tuesday, my classmates and I went to see the play Sargent & Victor & Me for a journalism assignment. It’s a one-woman show written and performed by Debbie Patterson, directed by Arne MacPherson, and presented by Theatre Projects Manitoba.

Walking into the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg, I was taken aback at how large the set was for only one person. I counted six tables, five chairs and four groups of four food hampers. The set was made to resemble a local food bank. 

At first, I was a little skeptical to learn it was a one-woman act. I haven’t been to many plays before, and I had never been to a show with only one cast member.

Despite my skepticism, I was intrigued it was about Winnipeg.

Winnipeg’s West End gets a bad rap, so I was looking forward to see what Debbie would bring to the conversation. I was also excited to see how she would incorporate her struggles with multiple sclerosis.

Throughout the play, Debbie played eight different characters: Gillian, Bob, Pastor Giles Mitchell, Tom, Theresa, Gracie, Sharon and Fred. The characters ranged from seven to 90-years old.

I just remember thinking “Holy crap. She’s good.”

As I said, I haven’t been to many plays before, but I have such admiration for actors. Remembering all those lines is impressive, and being so vulnerable like that is something I could never do.

What I loved most was her seamless ability to go in and out of characters. Not only with their words, but their accents, mannerisms, body movements, etc. The writing for the play and the acting were both amazing.

I found the use of radio clips very effective. Sean Kavanagh’s voice is quite recognizable, so it felt like I could have been listening to real Winnipeg news stories. I also thought the music was used very effectively.

From a journalistic perspective, I loved that these were the real words of real people Debbie interviewed. It reminded me that storytelling comes in many different forms, and getting creative with the way we share someone’s story can be very refreshing.

I liked how Debbie was able to give a voice to her disease.

I don’t have MS, it has me.” 

“The things I can’t do are outweighing the things I can do.”

I got teary-eyed at a few points throughout the play. When she describes being with her family in Thunder Bay and realizing it was the last time she would be there, or when she talks about coming to terms and learning to cope with her broken body.

I didn’t really love how I was waiting for something to happen that didn’t. It didn’t do much in the way of changing misconceptions or offering solutions. And, I wanted it to bring deeper insight into the West End. I suppose it did a good job of illustrating the varied voices and opinions of the West End, but I feel most people are already aware of those opinions.

For someone who hasn’t seen many plays, I very much enjoyed this one. Overall, I thought it was well written, acted and executed by the whole team. If you have the chance to check it out, I highly recommend it. It plays at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film until March 9.

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