I, Taylor Chadwick, am the host of the What It Is podcast. A show dedicated to promoting artists in Edmonton and allowing them to speak their minds. I don’t normally review theatre but Jenna asked me to step-up and share my thoughts while she enjoys the sun in Mexico. Here we go…
The Girl With Two Voices is a story within a story. An anecdote about the life we want versus the life we actually live.
I entered a bare room in the Knox Evangelical Free Church. 20 chairs were placed around several tables that were set up to make a long rectangle. Eager ticket holders took all of the primo seats so I opted for a seat off to the side. I was a little further away than I would have liked to be but the performer’s story telling style travels far. Further than the confines of the room. This is a man who could relate with a packed house of 600 or, in this case, a small room of 20. Which, in this case, is a sold-out show.
The performer is Alan Williams of London’s West End and frequent face on BBC series such as Rome, Starlings and the UK version of Shameless. He enters the room calmly wearing what I saw him wearing in the lobby of the Arts Barns prior to the show. He drops his things on the floor in the way we all might and sits at the head of the table. There is no pretention in his performance. He’s telling us a story from his life but he tells it with such a relaxed passion, such a warm embrace that you can call it acting but at no point did it ever truly look or feel like he was performing for us.
Williams tells the story of his life in 1997 and uses that to buzz around various moments and reflections about his world and the lives of his friends. He admits to not being able to do voices but the characters in his story as so rich and well defined that I still have clear pictures and memories of who they were. The story itself is told with such detail that you can hear the creaks in the floorboards, feel the dust in the air and smell the flowers as he visits a botanical garden.
His story is his so I won’t try and retell it. In fact, his performance and telling of the material is so strong that I wasn’t sure if he was a brilliantly gifted playwright (which he is) or a natural and charismatic storyteller (which he also is). It’s a tour de force performance that feels like wiping the dust off of a classic novel and sitting down one night to read the whole freaking thing.
The story is long and the performance is precise. He speaks for 100 minutes and never takes a drink of water. He pauses briefly to find his breath and his place in the story every so often but all of these moments feel completely real. Probably because it is.
It’s hard to stay focused for 100 minutes but Williams makes it easy for you to drift off into reflection of your own life and fall back into his easy storytelling. Even if you missed a small section because you were thinking about other things it’s not difficult to get back into Alan’s flow when you catch his eye as he shares a laugh with the audience.
I connected, in particular, to a moment in Alan’s story when he almost gave up acting. After years of no work and living in poverty Alan decided that his acting career may not be the thing to pursue, but, life got involved and offered him two paid acting gigs shortly after this questioning of faith. I have had the same thoughts as a young artist thinking I should go into another field – only to have life send me a message letting me know I shouldn’t quit. Williams doesn’t know why this happens and neither do I. It just does.
The Girl With Two Voices is about Alan’s life and about all of our lives. It offers no grandiose climax but a series beautiful, funny and touching moments. Life isn’t about high stakes drama. Even the happiest lives have moments of sadness and even the saddest lives can have moments of hilarity. It’s up to the person living the life to find it. It’s okay for your life to have two voices.
Thank you for sharing your story with me Mr. Williams. I hope one day I can return the favour.
For tickets and info visit canoe2015.com
The Girl With Two Voices has one show remaining
Saturday, January 31 @ 8pm
Knox Evangelical Free Church (8403 104 St.)
Visit whatitispodcast.com or check out the show on iTunes.