Review: Except in the Unlikely Event of War

The world premiere of Except in the Unlikely Event of War, which Pi Theatre and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre have joined forces to put on, is a satire dealing with politics, global warming, artificial intelligence, censorship and peace.

Robert Moloney plays Tommy Bane, a passionately cynical radio host.
Robert Moloney plays Tommy Bane, a passionately cynical radio host.

As the lights darkened within the red brick walls of the Roundhouse, a robotic voice welcomed the audience and thanked them for “choosing theatre as their form of entertainment.” But Except pushes the lines of theatre, incorporating both real life and video into the mix.

The intentionally confusing script has three interweaving storylines. One of them is set in an underground military base in Canada’s arctic in 1966. The story follows a secret committee, gathered to discuss what to do in the terrifying (however improbable) event of prolonged peace.

In the next storyline, set in the same location 49 years later, the base has been transformed into a recording studio for a daily radio broadcast. Tommy Bane, the decidedly right wing host, reacts passionately to being censored whenever he talks, in vain, about a Chinese submarine allegedly dwelling in Canadian waters. If this story goes public, Bane knows it could change the outcome of the upcoming election, which Harper is currently the expected winner of.

Josette Jorge and Robert Moloney play themselves during a break from rehearsal for Except.
Josette Jorge and Robert Moloney play themselves during a break from rehearsal for Except.

While alternating between these two stories, the show frequently breaks the fourth wall (and possibly even a fifth) and includes interviews with the actors themselves, even completely stopping a scene at one point to debate the way the script was organized. This final plotline follows writer Sean Devine and director Richard Wolfe in 2013 as they rehearse and progress towards the opening of the show we are watching at that moment, in a style reminiscent of [title of show]. Talk about meta.

Using real events and people made the show a whirlwind so dotted with reality it seemed frighteningly possible. It had the opening night audience laughing and applauding enthusiastically, and continued to present the unexpected at every turn.

The particularly effective set design (by Yvan Morissette) connected all the stories and provided a unique, sterile setting. The decisive differences between the characters they played made Robert Moloney and Josette Jorge a strong heartbeat for the show. The script is well written and, interestingly enough, directly addresses its own confusing nature. It would have been nice to see more development of Jorge’s right wing blogger character, but instead several more superficial roles were the focus.

Though overwhelming at first, Except in the Unlikely Event of War is a remarkably witty, funny and eventually cohesive show, with an entertaining political dialogue proving that art truly can be a weapon.

Confusing? Possibly. Provocative? Likely. Worth seeing? Certainly.

*

Except in the Unlikely Event of War plays at the Roundhouse until November 30th. For tickets or more information, click here.

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