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Punctuate! Theatre knows their stuff ... period

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am

GET A JOB OR ELSE – From left to right, the Punctuate! Theatre is Rebecca Starr, Jeff Page, St. Albert’s Cliff Kelly, Elliott James and Andréa Jorawsky.
GET A JOB OR ELSE – From left to right, the Punctuate! Theatre is Rebecca Starr, Jeff Page, St. Albert’s Cliff Kelly, Elliott James and Andréa Jorawsky.
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Punctuate! Theatre
Feb. 19 to 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The TACOS Space
10005 – 80 Ave.
Tickets: $20/regular; $15/students, seniors, industry. Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at

Listen up Mr. Harper. There is a pack of Alberta thespians that are questioning some of your political choices.

Moves such as your tough on crime legislation and cutting the entire budget of the National Welfare Council in 2012 are only the tip of the iceberg.

Yes, Edmonton’s Punctuate! Theatre, a young subversive troupe that first debuted at the Edmonton Fringe in 2010 with The End of Civilization, is leading the charge with political commentary in DIRT.

Written by Alberta playwright Ron Chambers, now a University of Lethbridge professor, DIRT is part of a collection he penned in the mid-’90s during massive Klein cuts to social programs.

“It was a move towards capitalism that got away from the collective where the rich got richer and the poor were getting poorer,” said Punctuate! Theatre’s artistic director Elizabeth Hobbs.

And Hobbs believes Stephen Harper’s attitude toward Canada’s citizens flows along the same vein.

“The play exposes and dismisses what doesn’t fit in the lives of upstanding citizens. It exposes the idea of disposable humans, that certain members of society don’t deserve to live.”

This gritty play is centred around Murphy (Jeff Page), an unsavoury, dislikeable man who lives on welfare. He lives on a dilapidated piece of land and when his girlfriend turns up dead, the murder is pinned on him.

Tensions increase when Falkin (James Elliott), a zealous police detective and his rookie partner Kiddo (Cliff Kelly) arrest Murphy and put him under a strange house arrest where Greta (Andréa Jorawsky), another welfare recipient, monitors him. The fifth actor is the nosy Mrs. Boros (Rebecca Starr), a capitalist cabbage-roll seller.

“Falkin pays Greta as a live-in guard to hopefully get a confession out of Murphy,” Hobbs explained. “But as the play unravels, it’s less and less likely he killed his girlfriend.”

“The play reaches a critical point when Falkin orders Kiddo to kill Murphy if things go off the rails,” said Kelly, who plays Kiddo and in his day job is an employee at St. Albert’s Surface Flow Control.

“My character flips back and forth. He wants to impress his supervisor but throughout there is a conflict of conscience,” he commented.

Kelly added that one of the chilling aspects is how cleverly Falkin indoctrinates and manipulates people into committing illegal and unethical acts.

In discussing Falkin’s bizarre arrangement with Greta, Hobbs leads to a discussion of the socio-economic cost of housing a prisoner in Canada.

“Did you know it costs $113,000 a year to keep an inmate incarcerated? Why not just pay them to stay out of trouble?” noted a clearly exasperated Hobbs at the prohibitive price tag when compared to the amounts a welfare recipient receives.

DIRT is a thought-provoking play and Hobbs plans to ask as many questions as possible.

“It’s all about the human struggle. Punctuate! has very strong views on humanity. We try to see people as individuals as opposed to whitewashing everyone with the same brush. We hope DIRT will be good entertainment and that people will recognize themselves in the characters and question their own attitudes to who those people represent.”


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