Director Jim Guedo challenges audiences with Terminus
Mark O’Rowe’s 2007 play, Terminus, is an exercise in undiluted storytelling. Its surreal verse, like a natural gas leak, is meant to pull the oxygen from a room and send the audience into a graphic hallucination of a single depraved night in Ireland.
Much of this Irish playwright’s work delves into the seedy and sordid parts of the human soul. With broomstick abortions, a homicidal maniac, and a demon composed entirely out of worms, Terminus is an O’Rowe play through and through.
“The level of how much you’re disturbed is how well your imagination works,” says the play’s director, Jim Guedo. “As the play progresses through the use of the audience’s imaginations, and the images created by the actors, the play takes bizarre flights into uncharted, supernatural, surreal landscapes. Terminus is a last stop.”
It’s difficult for one to describe the script without comparison to other classic works like Paradise Lost, Ulysses, and even Pulp Fiction. It’s presented without much spectacle or pageantry—it opts for just enough to give the audience a sense of the world they’re in, and the rules it plays by. Its characters are what keep your attention.
That being said, a minimalist production means the cast has a lot of weight to carry, but Guedo is confident in his actors and their abilities.
“They’re like three jazz musicians that get to jam … they all have strength, they all have vulnerability, and they all have a facility with the language,” Guedo says. “Terminus is an amazing journey, but it’s pure storytelling in that you have three interconnected monologues by three characters that start in a recognizably real urban environment.”
As the story unfolds, that environment becomes less and less recognizable.
The play tells the story of three characters, A, B, and C, played by Christine MacInnis, Morgan Donald, and Ben Stevens, respectively. A middle-aged suicide hotline operator, a lonely young woman out on the town, and a shy murderer all weave criss-crossing stories into each other’s lives. Each of them a lost soul, hurdling towards some ruin in their lives that they thought had forgotten about them.
“This play, on one level, could be polarizing to a lot of people because the characters themselves embrace dark choices. But at the core of it, they’re all isolated, lost, lonely, searching for something,” says Guedo. “They have moments of redemption even though you may certainly not condone a lot of the behaviour … If I felt there were no redeeming features in the people, then I actually wouldn’t do the play.”
Guedo says it’s less about approval, and more about understanding. It’s not all horror. Baked in are moments of compassion, dark humour and love. He calls it a “full meal deal.”
Terminus doesn’t seem like a play for those looking to put their feet up and have their moral reasoning done for them on stage. It’s a play with something truly rotten to confront. It’s a play for the creative lapsed Catholics. It’s an Irish toast to tenderness, perdition and the gods of death.
Thur., Apr. 13 to Sun., Apr. 23
ATB Financial Arts Barn, $25 for adults, $20 for students