When you enter the room David Brooks (Jonathan Capdevielle) is seated in a chair waiting for us to take our seats on the bright green stadium-like benches. So we all file in, and as people climb over top of each other to get their seats, the ushers hand out a fanzine which later becomes part of the production.
Then he speaks and begins to tell us a fictionalized story based on the events of the actual Houston Mass Murders. The reason I say fictionalized is because one Google search into the actual events of the Houston Mass Murders (which I promptly did as soon as I got home) will reveal that the story you hear from this David Brooks does not match up with the actual events.
However, historical accuracy is not the point. Rather the intention is to blur the lines between reality and fantasy and to explore, with the audience, how the psychology of one young man’s mind might work. And so we sit and listen as David brings out his puppets and in graphic detail recounts some of the horrifying acts of rape, murder and mutilation that he witnessed and was part of.
And, at first - I’m going to be completely honest with you - it is a little uncomfortable because, for most of us, this is not your average night at the theatre. For most of us when we think of puppets and theatre we might think of say, Avenue Q, where puppets having sex on stage is actually quite funny. Well, the sexual acts perpetrated on this stage by these puppets are no laughing matter and I think that is what might make it hard for some audience members to get past. A couple of people did walk out half-way through the performance; however, for the rest of us, once we settled in and began that suspension of disbelief it was a mesmerizing journey.
Not only does Jonathan Capdevielle take us on a journey by inhabiting the psyche of David Brooks but he is also the voice of the puppets for the other two serial killers Dean Corll and Elmer Wayne Henley. Towards the end of the performance we see Jonathan, as David Brooks, in an almost catatonic state yet the actor inside is still able to throw his voice and clearly articulate the voices of the other characters.
I’m still mesmerized by his performance as I sit here and write this post. And I don’t necessarily want to speak for everyone in that room but I have never, in all my theatre-going years, experienced that long of a pause at the end of a performance before the clapping began. It really was as though everyone in that audience was put under a spell and needed a moment to return to reality.
You can catch Jerk at the VIVO Media Arts Centre at 1965 Main Street. Trust me it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Jerk plays for the next three days until January 24 at 8pm. There is a post-show talk back after tonight’s performance. If I didn’t have another PuSh show to attend I might go back just for the talk-back because I would love to know more about the creation of this piece. And, possibly, just to see Jonathan Capdevielle in real life, and not just as David Brooks, because right now if I saw him on the street I might just run in the opposite direction.
(Photo of Jonathan Capedevielle by Alain Monot. Courtesy of the PuSh Festival)