Review: Jerk – honest and brutal manipulation

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Having interviewed Jerk Director Gisèle Vienne last month I knew we were in for something different.  But what I didn’t expect was to be manipulated.


From the moment we arrived at the venue, each element of the show was obviously well chosen to build upon the experience; for Jerk certainly isn’t theatre in a traditional sense, but an experience.

And for those of us in the audience that braved the oppressingly hot room (so hot in fact one audience member fainted as they attempted to escape – although I must admit no one, including myself, bothered to question whether this was perhaps another bit of manipulation) and the uncomfortable bleacher seats for the talkback after the show, Vienne is quick to point out that indeed it was the “experience” that was important here and not the story.

But while Vienne insists that the story, an imaginary reconstruction of the 70s Dean Corll serial murders, is not important as part of the “experience” it begs the question: if story doesn’t matter why choose this particular horrific true event as the backdrop?

(Indeed, as my theatre partner asked last night: how does the use of this story honour the memory of the 20+ young men that Dean Corll kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered?  A question obviously too late now to ask Vienne but I will hazard a guess that she would say that for this “experience” it is inconsequential.)

Jerk features Jonathan Capedevielle as the lone actor for this piece.  One cannot doubt his obvious skills here as an actor, puppeteer and even ventriloquist.  But while I can admire his skills, it is obvious he was as complicit in my manipulation last night, as much as Director Vienne and writer Dennis Cooper.

But then I guess, if we are to believe Vienne, that is the point.

I’m just not used to being so honestly and brutally manipulated by my theatre.

3 out of 5 starsJerk
2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
January 18-24, 2010
Vivo Media Arts Centre

Visit for tickets and information.

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