Fresh off the back of their co-production of La Marea as part of the PuSh Festival, Boca Del Lupo presents fifteen minute shows in its cosy Anderson Street Space, under the heading “Experiments in Intimate Performance… Small new works in a small new room”.

The Whale was the first of two works being presented this week. An extract from a longer show in development by Jessie Award winning actor Kyle Jesperson, it comprised an encounter with door-to-door Bible salesman Manley Dunn, who was keen to tell the audience the story behind the last Bible that he just couldn’t seem to shift.

We left with differing opinions of the piece, so we thought we’d explore those in a more conversational review/blog post. Read on and feel free to join in the debate in the comments section below!

Tilly: I enjoyed the piece. It did feel like a work in progress, but for fifteen minutes, it engaged me and I was entertained and drawn into the storytelling.

Angie: I enjoyed the piece as well, I thought the performer was great. However, I have seen 10 – 15 minute performances that are very cohesive. I found this one to be a bit all over the place and somewhat confusing.

Tilly: I agree – a lot of themes were introduced in a short space of time – more than could be neatly wrapped up in fifteen minutes. I think to look at it as an extract of a longer show, it whet my appetite to find out more about the character and his relationship with the narratives of Vancouver past and present that he introduced. However, if it had been presented as a show in itself, then I would have been frustrated that there were so many things to take in: the anachronistic character, his take on the history of the city – including False Creek and the Japanese internment camps at Hastings Park, the linking of the story of Jonah with the real sighting of a whale in the Burrard Inlet last year… It seemed apt that seeing this show during the PuSh Festival with its theme of “cityness” and link to the Vancouver 125 celebrations, as Vancouver played such a central role.

Angie- Yes, perhaps the full show explores each theme further so the performance as a whole makes more sense at the end. What I had the most trouble with was that he didn’t really connect the stories throughout his narrative. One minute he was talking about selling Bibles to the Japanese, and then the next he was talking about Jonah. I just didn’t think there was enough motive for him to compare his personal story with that of the Bible. I then realized that maybe not a lot of people know who Jonah is, or what the story is about, so I am sure that many people missed the point entirely. I did, however, very much enjoy his description of Vancouver in the 1940’s.

Tilly: I’ve just realised this is the second show I’ve seen in the Boca Del Lupo Anderson Street space that involved someone asking me what I thought of the Bible (the first being the Fringe show Value Village).  But back to the whales – I agree that the leap to compare his story with that of Jonah seemed a bit sudden, but I think having set up a reality where a Bible salesman from the 1940s with a Macbook in his antique suitcase  was stuck in some kind of limbo because he still had one Bible left to sell, it didn’t seem out of place. In a way it reminded me of Groundhog Day – there’s no logical reason why Bill Murray has to repeat February 2nd until things are perfect. I didn’t know the details of the story of Jonah, but he did read the story out loud and we witnessed him making the mental links between the biblical text and his own journey. I did find the ending a bit puzzling though – as Jesperson left us in the space to watch video footage of the grey whale in the Burrard Inlet as he planned to re-enact the Jonah story, it seemed unclear whether the piece had finished or not. I was wondering whether the footage had been manipulated to show him diving in, or whether we would hear a splash from outside the window! What did you think of the ending? And do you think you will go and see the show based on Thursday evening?

Angie: The ending was puzzling. I was also waiting for him to either come back or to be in the footage somehow. Having said that, I thought it was a very clever idea to use the whale in the Burrard Inlet as part of the show. That’s one example of where there was a flow and connection between the stories he was telling. It was also quite funny and the video was beautiful. Despite my criticism of this short piece, I would definitely go see the full show. Jesperson is very charismatic and a great story teller. I can’t stay it was a boring piece, I really liked listening to him. I would be curious to see the full show and find out how he develops the story. Also, his character was a very lovely, sweet and interesting man, and I do want to get to know him more.

Tilly: I agree – he had the surface charisma and charm of a Southern Bible salesman, but there were definitely hints at a darker side hidden beneath!

Did you get to see The Whale too? (We know the 7pm show was sold out when we got there!) What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below, or on twitter: @escapadetheatre