Theatre review: Kayak is a compelling journey

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Part relationship drama, part ecological fable, Jordan Hall’s Kayak is a compelling journey.

Sitting in a kayak that we quite early-on find out is adrift somewhere off the coast of Vancouver, Annie is finishing the last of her s’mores and trying to protect herself from the elements.  As dehydration and the sun begin to take its toll, she speaks directly to the audience and tells us of the infatuation that her son Peter has with the environmental zealot Julie.  Not the life she had planned for her son, she finds herself fighting against a woman who has stolen her son’s heart, but who is too wrapped up in her next crusade to even think of returning that affection.

Blurring the lines between reality and hallucination, playwright Hall paints an inventively vivid correlation between what is happening in today’s world of environmental activism.  Even as her story comes to its conclusion, Hall never allows us to know exactly where that line for Annie begins or ends and cleverly gives each of his three characters a different view in the environmental conversation, providing access no matter what part of the eco-spectrum you find yourself on.

Susan Hogan as Annie in the Alley Theatre production of Kayak. Photo by Chena San Martin.

Susan Hogan as Annie in the Alley Theatre production of Kayak. Photo by Chena San Martin.

Susan Hogan brings a wonderful dynamic to a role for someone confined inside a kayak for the duration.  Haggard and nearly defeated, she brings such a realism to the role that when her desperation and anger turns to acceptance, we feel her relief.  There is a subtlety to Hall’s writing at times that Hogan fully embraces, but she commands such attention that it pays off big time and is well-balanced even as she treads the playwright’s deeper emotional waters.

As son Peter, Sebastian Kroon plays the conflicted man with a surprising gentleness as he finds himself forced to choose between his mother and Julie, ultimately realizing the pain that either choice will bring.  Marisa Smith rises to the occasion even as she is given the almost impossible task as the environmentally obsessed object of his desire.  Smith makes no apologies for her Julie, an unlikeable character who has as little regard for herself as she has anyone else.

Director Rachel Peake keeps things simple among these sometimes complex issues, with Lauchlin Johnston’s suspended kayak that takes centre stage and small smart additions like Malcolm Dow’s original music.

Ultimately, Hall has achieved here what many writers with a passion for the environment can only hope for: a genuine, entertaining and emotional trip across sometimes rough seas that won’t drown you with its cautionary tale.


By Jordan Hall.  Directed by Rachel Peake.  An Alley Theatre Production.  On stage at The Cultch’s Culture Lab as part of the rEvolver Festival through May 26, 2013.  Visit for tickets and information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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