Review: Fire in the Meth Lab (Waterfront Theatre, until September 20)

Tickets: http://tickets.vancouverfringe.com/shows/fire%20in%20the%20meth%20lab/events

Saturday night, I had time to see a show around 9:45 on Granville Island, and I had a pick of three. I texted the names to a friend, who told me (knowing nothing other than the titles) to pick “Fire in the Meth Lab”. Well, it had been a long day, and it turned out Waterfront Theatre was also the closest. So away I went.

I ended up being stunned by the humor, pathos, tragedy, and possibly redemption in this true family story of the impacts of addiction and bullying. Jon Bennett, the performer, is very engaging and interactive in this one-man show, which went about 75 minutes when I attended (a bit longer than the average Fringe show). He is Australian, and of course a good part of the humor arises from Australia-based jokes.

It’s a truism that many actors work out traumas by performing, and there’s no doubt that Jon Bennett does achieve some catharsis with this play. Bennett’s family, although very religious, is not portrayed as abusive, but the behavior of one son, out of four brothers, casts a huge shadow.

Bennett’s brother, given the name of “Tim” in this show (a disclaimer says the stories are true, but names are changed), comes across as inherently malevolent. Although no one wants to think this can be true of children, Bennett’s stories certainly suggest someone who was evil from the time he could reason–except for a couple of things.

Bennett throws in Australian cultural references, like 80s heart-throb Jason Donovan (it seems North America missed hearing about him), and to the Australian version of highly religious child Bible camps. It’s easy to fall into the misconception that Australia is pretty much like Canada, but hotter, but I think not.

Heavy and funny and both at once, go see Fire in the Meth Lab.

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