The Windsor-Walkerville Fringe provided another afternoon of exceptional theatre with Life of Len produced by Skipping Stones Theatre. This one man show starring Eric Branget follows Len through several of the highlights in his life. Most of these memories focus on his relationship with his brother, Jimmy, and how things change with each life event.
Branget plays Len from childhood to old age, and watching the transformations happen instantaneously was impressive in its seamlessness. From a young Len, obsessed with space travel and Flash Gordon, to an elderly man who can’t find anything (it may be lost in the 90’s) Branget adeptly navigates all of these situations and everything in between. We get to fully understand Len, and where some of his trouble-maker nature comes from (he didn’t mean to break the radio the second time, he swears), but also the great deal of hero worship he has for his brother, and how that translates to the choices he makes throughout his life.
One of the most ingenious elements to the play was how the other characters were represented on stage. Instead of talking to blank spaces and imaginary people, Branget uses household items to bring the other characters to life: Jimmy is a coatrack, Peter (Len’s son) an umbrella, and Pearl (Len’s wife) a lamp. Not only did these objects become something for Branget to play off of, they also provided opportunity for a great deal of comedy and were an unexpected but entertaining accent to the performance.
A personal favourite, and one of the more poignant memories, of the play was when Len decided to go and fight in World War Two. What’s normally depicted in such serious manner is made light as Len complains about his chores with his battalion and has shreds of maps all over his barracks. Yet in this levity we hear some of his most touching remarks about his brother; his presence in Len’s mind all too fresh and frequent despite the distance and trying circumstances. It was a beautiful moment, and really struck a chord for me.
The play ends with this beautiful playing with the phrase Please Play Again, the roll-up-the-rim result no one wants, but is a moving reminder of just how short life is and how the ones we love will always be there for us, one way or another.
There are only a few more chances to catch this awesome piece at the Olde Walkerville Theatre! July 28 at 1:15, and July 30 at 1. Don’t miss it!!