Down on his luck husband Henry, played by Willem Roelants, and homicide detective Donny, played by Brando Martell (from right), exchange pleasantries during rehearsals for the VIU production of The End of Civilization at the Mike Taugher Studio. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

VIU theatre production explores the breakdown of ‘civilized’ life

‘The End of Civilization’ comes to 25-seat Mike Taugher Studio

The Vancouver Island University theatre department’s latest production takes a look at what happens when people are pushed to their limits and then find themselves on the other side.

From Dec. 4 to 6 The End of Civilization, a 1997 short play by prolific Canadian playwright George F. Walker, comes to VIU’s Mike Taugher Studio. The play follows Henry and Lily, a couple who find themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances once they move into a motel room after Henry loses his job. The story is part of Walker’s Suburban Motel series, a collection of short plays that take place in the same motel room.

“We hear ‘End of Civilization’ and we think ‘apocalyptic,’” said theatre professor and director Leon Potter. “But what it’s actually about is that idea that we all live this very civilized life … what happens to people when that civilized life or everything that makes that life civilized is removed?”

For a play that examines what happens when the walls come closing in with no escape, Potter said the “very cramped” and “very crowded” 25-seat Taugher Studio, located below the View Gallery, is a suitable venue. Potter said it’s a no-frills space where it’s all about the performance and actors can “sink their teeth into” their roles.

“Rather than looking at huge staging and big lights and special effects and things like that, you’re literally five feet away from the audience,” Potter said. “You don’t need to project your voice, but what you do need is you need to be very intimate and you need to be present and in the moment.”

Second-year students Ana Carvalho and Willem Roelants play Lily and Henry, respectively. Roelants said the characters are “closer than you think.”

“I love how relatable everybody is considering how ridiculous the characters are, how at first glance they all seem so foreign … doing things they would never do,” he said. “But as you go though the script and break it down you can see how they got there and how close you really are to becoming like them.”

Carvalho is a fan of Suburban Motel and has performed some scenes from the series in her acting classes. She said she’s looking forward to bringing The End of Civilization to the stage.

“You can watch this play and be like, ‘Oh, this is somebody I know,’ ‘I know that couple,’” she said. “That’s definitely something you can relate to. That’s why it’s so scary, because this could be you.”

WHAT’S ON … The VIU theatre department presents The End of Civilization at the Mike Taugher Studio, VIU Building 330, Room 109, on Dec. 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5, available online. Seating is limited. 18-plus show. Some possibly disturbing content.

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