Cul-de-sac created by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, directed by Brooks, with MacIvor. Presented by da da kamera at the Canadian Stage Berkeley Theatre (26 Berkeley). Opens tonight (Thursday May 22) and runs to May 31, Monday-Saturday 8:30 pm. $30-$35. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNNN
let's get something straight. the two Daniels both love the theatre. Yes, they may have said some things this past year that had folks shaking their heads, but Daniel Brooks and Daniel MacIvor are still at it big time."And I'm not doing this for the money," laughs MacIvor a week before Cul-De-Sac, his latest collaboration with Brooks, goes up.
In an interview with this paper on the occasion of his debut feature film, Past Perfect, the ebullient MacIvor - who with Brooks and by himself has created some of this country's seminal plays - stated that he doesn't like going to the theatre. He finds it "really boring."
"What I meant is that I don't come from the theatre," he says. "I didn't see theatre until I started doing it. I've never felt like a theatregoer. Going to a play is not on my list of things to do for entertainment or relaxation. But obviously" - he looks around the theatre lobby where Cul-De-Sac opens tonight - "I enjoy this."
Brooks, meanwhile, stunned a national theatre conference last year with his critique of how plays are put up before they're ready and the compromises artists are forced to make and, regrettably, learn to live with.
"Maybe I alienated some people," admits Brooks, who talks in a slower, more measured way than MacIvor. "But making these statements public is a tremendous gift. Now I have to face what I've said and see whether I actually believe them. The speech was like a glaringly bright mirror."
You might call both comments a lashing out at the establishment. It's what happens, isn't it, when because of age, experience and the sheer number of years you've survived in the business, you start becoming the establishment yourself.
Brooks, winner of the first $100,000 Siminovitch Prize, is now artistic director of Necessary Angel. MacIvor, who tours internationally with his shows ("American dollars," he smiles, "are lovely"), has moved on to writing and directing feature films and has maintained a strong profile as a film actor, too. Both are getting that grey-around-the-temples thing happening. Both look... comfortable.
So: midlife crises? It sure seemed like it a couple of years ago, when, after Monster, the pair took a break from working together, Brooks writing and directing The Good Life, MacIvor writing and directing both You Are Here and In On It.
"We felt it was important for him to write a play and for me to direct a play, both apart from each other," says MacIvor, who usually speaks first and looks to Brooks for some sort of corroborating nod or glance. "We agreed it was important for him to take credit for writing and me to take credit for directing. There was pressure put on us from outside to identify who was doing what."
A typical Brooks/MacIvor collaboration - House, Monster, Here Lies Henry - will list the pair as creators, with Brooks usually as director, MacIvor as performer and writer, all titles misleading.
"We wanted to understand what we'd learned from one another and how we were different from each other," says MacIvor. "We also just wanted to be publicly separate in terms of the work."
Offstage, the two still collaborated. MacIvor worked a bit on The Good Life. Brooks worked on In On It and did a story edit for Past Perfect.
"We're doing well," says Brooks. "We're a very happy couple."
"I could use a little more action in the bedroom, but he's not into that. That's fine," says MacIvor, who's gay, about Brooks, who isn't.
Cul-de-Sac grew out of what was supposed to be a workshop last spring in Montreal. MacIvor wanted to work on a larger than usual scale, capturing a neighbourhood during the middle of the night.
While in Montreal, a story in the press about a gay Westmount couple who were complaining that their neighbours were homophobic added to the work. So did the fact that MacIvor's bag, filled with a week and a half's worth of notes, got stolen.
They also played with the concept of creating a work in real time, capturing exactly 81 minutes. Now the action takes place over five minutes, told through a variety of perspectives.
This production marks the fourth time the two have worked on the show in a year. One of the main differences between this and the Montreal version is the lack of self-referentiality. Whereas that first script mentioned props and asked the audience what they paid for their tickets, this production won't feature theatre as a theme.
"We're taking a conscious step away from what people call postmodernism and self-referentiality," says MacIvor.
"We're finding theatre as a theme less interesting than we once did," adds Brooks, who recently cut back theatre references in a Calgary production of The Good Life.
"Sometimes I go to the theatre and the whole issue of suspending disbelief seems to be about the people onstage having to suspend their disbelief," jokes MacIvor.
"It's hard to have an emotional attachment to a show or character when it's so aware of its artifice. Designer Dany Lyne recently used the term emotional realism. That sounds like something to aspire to. We all accept that we're in the theatre. We don't have to tell anybody."