People Like Us tackles moral issues about how we treat our war veterans, just in time for Remembrance Day. Unfortunately, it also makes you feel as if you’ve slipped back into a high school classroom for a moralistic history lesson.
People Like Us is the story of a military policeman’s wife Kate O’Rourke, who becomes an outspoken advocate for veterans’ rights while courageously battling with bureaucracy to restore her husband’s health and keep her family together. While fighting to get a diagnosis for her husband, who she suspects is suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, Kate inadvertently becomes an advocate for people like her family whose collective cry for help continues to fall on deaf ears…
While the topic is an important one, the execution prevented this play from being fully believable. One person shows are always masterful juggling acts, and Sarah Louise Turner’s rendition fell flat most of the time. Aside from a truly moving final testimony, Turner’s deliverance was mostly one note, which was disappointing given the rich subject matter. The character simply never felt real to me, and thus I could not relate well to her struggles and hardships. While Turner’s biography cites one of her talents as a voice over artist, it was hard to distinguish when she was impersonating her husband’s voice or mannerisms, and made it difficult to follow their conversations.
Sometimes, the merest spoken hint can carry far greater weight. In this case, we’re hit on the head a dozen times about bureaucracy and government red tape. Playwright Sandi Johnson leads her audience through the story as if they were children sitting down to a story about morals. I felt as if I was being lectured to in the most black and white terms, with little room to draw my own interpretations.
People is an important play for the subject matter, but I am still left wanting for relatable characters and – dare I say it – dark humour in the face of struggle. It is not so compelling to a younger audience seeking to understand past sacrifices of war veterans and their families.
It was also my first time to the historic Firehall Arts Centre, a comfortable, welcoming venue in Chinatown. They have an exciting lineup theatre and dance productions coming up, which I encourage you to check out. The venue is licensed, and they’ve taken the welcome step of allowing drinks into the theatre.
People Like Us is on at the Firehall Arts Centre until Nov 16. Tickets available here.
Photo Credit: Emily Cooper.