The setting for ITSAZOO’s Killer Joe is easily the most talked about aspect of this production, and there’s a good reason why. The term ‘white trash’ has almost become a cliché within our everyday jargon, but its very definition has become vague as a result. Killer Joe brings the origin of this word to the forefront.
There’s also a reason why ‘site-specific’ productions are one of the hottest trends in theatre today. Since we’re all busy peering into tiny screens and binge-watching Netflix, today’s audiences want to feel something when they make the effort. They want to be stirred and shaken outside of the everyday. They want to to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes in that unique way that only live theatre performances can evoke.
The very aspects of the trailer were meticulously, compulsively arranged, every inch of the carpet smudged and fowled, every bit of the decorations coming out of what you’d expect to find from people living on the very margins of society. The attention to detail and authenticity was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.
The cast was all competent, but I’ve had the luck of seeing this particular playwright done better. The great thing about Tracy Lett’s writing are the incredible moments of stillness before the axe drops. Killer Joe’s cast hadn’t gotten that desperate yet, but it was opening night and I’m hoping they’ll settle with time. I couldn’t quite believe Colby Wilson’s turn as Joe Cooper; even at the height of his performance, Wilson didn’t dig deep enough for a reign of true terror.
Killer Joe didn’t stir anything visceral within me, but it was sheer bloody entertainment.
And it is an effort to get out to Killer Joe – the show makes no apologies for that. But sometimes, it’s worth the journey out to a little-known parking lot to watch something special. And this show will not soon be performed in this very way again. Beware – there is full frontal nudity of both women and men, done tastefully, but most definitely in your face. Vancouver needs more of this kind of honest, no-holds-barred production – we’ve gotten too polite and smug in our West Coast identity to produce anything raw.
I love how Killer Joe experiments, succeeds, fails and comes up flailing for more.
The first row seats at the end are your best bet. Up close and personal, but also at the right angle to see all of the reactions. I sat in the middle of the trailer and found myself lacking a few key moments. But maybe that’s one last good reason to see it again.
Killer Joe plays in the parking lot of the Italian Culture Centre (Slocan & Grandview Highway) until May 4. Advance tickets here.
Photo Credit: Andrew Klaver.