Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


  Photo. Stephen Wild

The Firehall at the 1000 Islands Playhouse has opened their season with the fascinating solo show, “Assassinating Thomson,” created and performed by Bruce Horak. Those of you who saw him play three characters, sing, and play the guitar in last season’s “Dear Johnny Deere” will be surprised to learn the Mr. Horak is legally blind. Due to a childhood illness, he has only 9% vision – what he describes as extreme tunnel vision.

Mr. Horak appears in brown pants and a brown paint-spattered t-shirt on a simple platform covered by a drop cloth and backed by a black curtain and three of his large painting. (There are others on display in the lobby.) There’s also an easel and a small table with paints, brushes, and water.

Unlike most solo shows, “Assassinating Thomson” is basically a conversation between Mr. Horak and the audience. The house lights remain on, since during the performance he paints a picture of the audience. I loved it, since I could take notes without mistakenly writing on my white pants. His personality is charming as he weaves together his personal story, with how he sees shapes, and his theories about the death of Tom Thomson.

A pioneer in Canadian art, Tom Thomson disappeared during a canoe trip in Algonquin Park on July 8, 1917. His body was found several days later. Mr. Horak speculates on the possibility of murder as he examines the possible motives of the people in Thomson’s life.

This is woven through with a discussion about how he sees the world – the function of edges, negative shapes, and shadows and highlights. I have to admit I got a bit lost in the right brain/left brain theory.

His personal history, as is all the material, is filled with humor – often self-deprecating. I found the tale of his first use of a white cane when in his twenties, both touching and exhilarating. Instead of trying to behave as if sighted, he finds it’s “asking me to see through my own eye.”

Ably directed by Ryan Gladstone, “Assassinating Thomson” carries on the Firehall tradition of presenting unique theatre. This non-traditional piece is thoroughly absorbing and well-worth a visit.

“Assassinating Thomson” Firehall Theatre, 1000 Islands Playhouse, Gananoque

Through July 17 Tkts: 613-382-7020


Creator/Performer – Bruce Horak

Director – Ryan Gladstone

Stage Manager – Carm