This March, UFV’s theatre department is presenting Attempts on Her Life, written by Martin Crimp. The play is directed by award-winning actor and director Alex Lazaridis Ferguson, who is co-artistic director of internationally-acclaimed performance group Fight With a Stick. The cast is drawn from students in UFV’s theatre program.
The description given on the poster advertising the play, located in Building D close to the Black Box Theatre where it will be performed, says: “Who is Anne? Is she a terrorist? A good daughter? Is she a tree? Do we remember her or are we inventing her? Come and find out.”
The advertising blurb sounds intriguing, but what the play delivers will be quite different from what you might expect. I had the privilege of attending one of the rehearsals and have a foretaste of what the play will be like. While I only got to see two scenes be rehearsed, they were consistent with each other in tone and presentation, and I believe they are representative of the story overall. Attempts on Her Life is essentially a series of interior monologues, or rather dialogues, within the mind of the character Anne acted out on stage. Like a person’s thoughts, these voices are sometimes contradictory, go off on tangents, and say things that one wouldn’t likely say out loud. The subjects of Anne’s musings often touch upon late-20th-century themes (many of which are still relevant today) such as pornography and ethnic violence. The mature subject matter and use of coarse language means that Attempts on Her Life is not for the easily upset. Ferguson said he chose the play due to its language, and “the fact that it’s very open to whatever the company wants to do with it.”
It was a pleasure seeing Ferguson and company at work. They have been making up for lost time on rehearsals due to delays caused by the snowy weather last month. Despite the pressure, Ferguson and his cast and crew brought a lot of enthusiasm and creativity to their work, and they clearly enjoyed themselves.
“I chose them all because they are good listeners and sensitive people and can work as an ensemble,” said Ferguson. There were a lot of spontaneous moments, and combined with the unconventional nature of the play, I often found it difficult to tell what was in the script and what was a mistake or ad-libbed. What I saw was enough to make me eager to see the whole play in its final form.
Will we find out who Anne is? I doubt Attempts on Her Life will give audiences a clear answer, but they will come to know who Anne is as a person, and will likely be entertained in the meantime, assuming they are fans of raunchy comedy or the avant-garde.
Attempts on Her Life will be playing at the Black Box Theatre in room D105 on UFV’s Abbotsford campus. Performances will be held on March 12–16, 19, and 21–23. Those wishing to see the play should visit https://www.ufv.ca/plays/shows/ to check showtimes as these vary by date, and to reserve seats since space in the venue is limited.
Image: Darren McDonald