Writer: Adam Kelly Morton
Director: Matthew Gould
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
On 6 December 1989, Marc Lepine walked into a Montreal University, killed 14 women and then killed himself. This 90-minute monologue from Chewed Up Theatre attempts to get inside the mind of a mass murderer and explain what might seem to be inexplicable. The audience is seated men on one side, women on the other; this may start as a minor inconvenience to some, but its purpose becomes clear as the drama reaches its climax.
The son of an Algerian Moslem father, who leaves the family during his childhood, and a devoutly Catholic French Canadian mother, Lepine is 5’6″ tall, slightly built and plagued by acne. His life is a series of rejections – by the Canadian Army, by academic institutions, by employers and by women; he blames the Government, authorities and feminists. Finally he is accepted for something – to be the holder of a gun licence. As the story begins to unfold, the initial fear is that Lepine will be depicted as nothing more than a self-pitying loner out to take random revenge on the world. However the writer, Adam Kelly Morton never resorts to simplistic explanations and we see a complex character emerge, one who attributes the blame for each of his rejections carefully and even rationally; he sees “the system” as being at fault and overlooks his own inabilities to conform with it. His warped philosophy is influenced by the two religions of his parents, although he adheres to neither, and he finds cultural inspiration from sources as diverse as the existentialist writings of Albert Camus and the bloody images of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.
Morton’s words are brought vividly to life by an astonishing performance from relative newcomer Felix Brunger. He has trained in Meisner technique (evolved from “method” acting) and, here, he inhabits his character completely. He chalks words, numbers and diagrams frantically on the walls and floors to reflect the turmoil of a chaotic mind; he stares pleadingly at the audience as if seeking vindication for his thoughts and deeds; he charms and jokes while always conveying an inner rage which eventually rises explosively to the surface; and he breaks our hearts when convincing us that all Lepine needs in his life is love, which he has come to believe he can never find. He is assisted by Tom Kitney’s very effective lighting, which underscores variations in tone and mood, and by Matthew Gould’s sharply focussed direction, which sustains interest throughout and diminishes the inevitable limitations of format and venue.
Eventually, Lepine sees no option but to leave this world and to take as many others with him as possible, citing specific grievances against the feminist movement to justify his targets. He cannot accept the teachings of the religions of either of his parents on the consequences of suicide, because he is in Hell already. He orders the women who are at the mercy of his rifle to separate from the men and he glares at the female section of the already segregated audience. An icy chill descends across the small auditorium. This is a powerful and totally absorbing piece of work.