Abortion. Whenever artists try to create shows about it, I fear for them. Like most controversial subject matters, it’s easy to go a bit overboard in creating something too serious, too preachy or too political. But playwright and director Jill Connell completely derails the topic in any path you can possibly imagine, sending it flying into this edgy drama that’s part Western spirit, part contemporary world and part parallel universe.
The Supine Cobbler is more than just a yoga pose (for all you yogis out there). It is a metaphor – and used brilliantly throughout. This multi-genre work is a satirical, metatheatrical critique of society’s view on clinical abortion and how it affects the lives of women who decide to go that route. You never know where the play is going to take you next, but it keeps you on edge and it keeps you feeling. It never stops doing its job.
The Cobbler (Katie Swift) is thirty-something with no name. She carefully takes us through the process of having a clinical abortion at the hands of the mysterious Doctor (Leni Parker), while joined by the Kid who’s mentally unstable (Jackie Rowland), the Dancer who’s hanged herself (Chala Hunter) and the Lover who’s missing, presumed dead (Susanna Fournier).
The characters exist, straddling this bizarre line between reality and afterlife, unbound by laws, but feeling the pressure of them at the same time. The play, as a whole, embodies the layered thought process involved in having an abortion; it is a bunch of thoughts, comparisons, moments of shame, moments of certainty and moments of uncertainty all mixed together in this hodgepodge of heartbreak and complexity.
And the show never stops surprising you. Just when you think you have it all together, the characters will break off into a meta-recess, keeping the audience separate from the action. We are society. We are watching, judging. Maybe we’re the bad guys.
It comes as no surprise that all five actors have been working together on this piece since 2012. They are so naturally eerie and every moment is achieved with a certain fluidity that can be attributed to the years spent building the show together. The actors are all individually talented beyond belief and also have a noticeable onstage connection to one another that further drives home the story to help accentuate our investment in it.
The Supine Cobbler is an intelligent and worthwhile political drama that picks your brain. Connell continually takes sharp turns with the piece and tests her audience, seeing if they can keep up. I challenge you. And I guarantee this: the show is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Presented by It Could Still Happen, The Supine Cobbler runs until Sept. 26 at 35 Strachan Ave., Toronto. For more information, visit www.itcouldstillhappen.com.
photo credit: Samantha Madely