Medicine, written and performed by TJ Dawe, is a personal monologue in which he shares his inner monsters with an audience. Having done 11 one-man autobiographical shows, Dawe is no stranger to revealing his life to the public. He is a regular on the North American Fringe circuit, and spends his life telling roomfuls of strangers his secrets. Medicine, however, has an undeniable personal investment that goes further than most Fringe shows do. Dawe shares more on stage than many people will share with their closest confidants.
At the Firehall Theatre, with no set and one prop (a water bottle, for when 85 minutes of talking begins to tire him), Dawe divulges his experiences, unraveling his psyche with Dr. Gabor Maté, a Vancouver addiction specialist who used to lead retreats near Victoria to help patients using the “Amazon herb”, ayahuasca. That story was accompanied by rants on human incompetence and some hilarious background information, which lightens the considerably heavy mood.
Since the beginning of theatre, plays have been a way for people to escape their troubles and venture into the world of fiction, and many are still good for that. Medicine, however, forces you to consider what your own demons are, what may have been at the root of them, and how you can move on. Even his rants about the inefficiency of keyboard layouts or the ridiculously archaic names of the months highlight his underlying theme; that we as humans hold onto what we know does not benefit us. While we may not need therapy to overcome our keyboard layouts, it is important to recognize that we do hold onto things that we no longer need.
Dawe commands the stage with irrevocable presence. While there is no set, the switches in time and place are clear because of simple yet effective lighting design. The show, like all autobiographies, takes a certain amount of prepossessed interest in the author’s life to enjoy. However, everyone who sees it will be able to take something from Medicine, even if it is just a few book recommendations.
Medicine runs at the Firehall Arts Centre until February 2nd. Tickets and information available at http://firehallartscentre.ca/onstage/medicine-2/