Monday 11 June 2007

17. Who Look In Stove

Who Look In Stove is a short play about 3 real British men's ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Territories in the Fall of 1926. John Hornby, Harold Adlard, and Edgar Christian travelled up north and died alone in their camp, having missed the passing of Caribou (the successful hunting of enough of which would have kept them fed and strong well into the Spring).

During this time, Edgar Christian (only 18 when the men began their expedition) kept a diary of all things quotidian (weather, hunting successes and failures, etc) and personal (in particular, his and his companions' slow mental and physical breakdowns). All three were dead by April 1927 and Christian's diary and some letters to his family were found about 1.5 years later and eventually published.

Lawrence Jeffery, the playwright, draws loosely on Christian's diary to imagine what the men's last few months would have been like; the title comes from the note Christian left on top of the wood stove to tell any late-coming rescuers where to find his diary.

The play is extremely sparse in terms of language, stage directions, and action. This sparseness, however, is precisely the source of the play's compelling look at the men's mental breakdown; this breakdown manifests first as an aggressive verbal preying upon one another turn, then as a sort of understated but intense homoeroticism, and then finally as a tired balance of mutual care.

I would very much like to see it staged; the David Caruso School of Acting and/or the Stomp and Roar School of Acting that tends to be applied across the board at places like the Stratford Festival would simply not work with a play like this. And thank god - some real acting might occur.

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