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Monday, 27 January 2014 22:17

Toronto Theatre Review: THE WAY BACK TO THURSDAY Gets Lost Along the Way

Written by
Rob Kempson and Astrid Van Wieren (l-r) Rob Kempson and Astrid Van Wieren (l-r) Photo: Michael Cooper

To paraphrase this production's press release;

As a youngster, Cameron (Rob Kempson) and his Grandmother (Astrid Van Wieren) develop a close and special relationship as well as a special tradition. They bond as they watch old Hollywood movies every Thursday night. But as Cameron comes of age, he moves to a distant city, abandoning his home and grandmother in order to conceal and deal with his homosexuality.

The Way Back to Thursday , according to playwright Rob Kempson, "is a frank and honest account of a relationship between young and old, and unconditional love that crosses generations, genders and lifetimes."

My take, however, is that this is more a play about identity crisis, coming out, maturing and ultimate regret, than it is about the unconditional love of family. Yes, the songs do in many ways deal with a special relationship and the dedicated love of his grandmother, but the major thrust of this piece, which becomes blatantly clear in the latter half of this one hour production, revolves around Cameron abandoning love, discovering self, rediscovering love and then finally, regretting what he has done. In fact, the most relevant and genuinely poignant moment in this production comes at the very end, when after years of rejecting his grandmother's invitations and neglecting to visit her, Cameron finally comes to his senses. After accepting who and what he is, he returns with much remorse to this very aged, semi-aware, almost empty shell of a woman and manages by humming a familiar tune to raise but a spark of recognition from her. A very emotional moment, indeed. But not on theme. At least not Rob Kempson's stated theme.

Playwrighting 101; firstly, know what it is you're trying to say. Then make certain that all aspects of your narrative and characters reflect that theme and point of view.

In this case, Kempson's writing says one thing while he believes he's saying something else. This type of confusion doesn't usually give the playwright much of a chance at producing a coherent script.

In addition to a confused interpretation of the play's theme, the playwright further compounds the problem by including illogical material. Grandma sings songs lamenting the fact that she had lied to Cameron when she had told him that she had been a movie star in her youth. She wonders if those lies have driven him away from her. Logic, however, dictates that someone as astute as Cameron, even as a child, would have asked her to show him some of the films she was in.

None of this confusing narrative helps the audience believe in the characters or the situation.
Both performers are competent vocally and acting-wise, but Kempson's tendency to under-articulate occasionally, causes us to lose vital information at key moments.

Additionally, Kempson's portrayal of Cameron as a young child, borders on cliché acting.

The story is conveyed through a song cycle: there are fifteen songs and no dialogue.

“I was inspired by the song cycles of Schubert and Schumann,” said playwright Rob Kempson. “We’ve deviated from the form a little but the work of those composers definitely provided the structure for the piece."

A pianist and cellist join the two actors on a simple tri-level set.

As for the original lyrics and score, they're reasonably pleasant, but only intermittently memorable, hummable or touching.

This is a sometimes moving production, but with a troubling, confused script and too few engaging moments to warrant praise.

Sam Bisson Cello
Scott Christian Piano
Rob Kempson Cameron
Astrid Van Wieren Grandma

Creative Team
Written by Rob Kempson
Director Briana Brown
Orchestrations & Music Director Scott Christian
Dramaturgy Samantha Serles
Set & Lighting Design Beth Kates
Sound Design Emily Porter
Costume Coordinator Katie Horrill
Stage Manager Michael Sinclair

Facebook: Theatre Passe Muraille
Twitter: @beyondwallsTPM; #TheWayBack
The Way Back to Thursday
January 21 to February 8, 2014

A Theatre Passe Muraille production

Run Time Approximately 59 minutes with no intermission

Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinees 2:00 p.m.
Saturday Matinees Pay-What-You-Can,
with a limited number of $20 tickets
available in advance.

Ticket Prices
General: $32.50
Senior / Artsworker: $27.50
Under 30: $15.00

Tickets and Information
In person at the Arts Box Office, 16 Ryerson Ave.

About Theatre Passe Muraille
Founded in 1968, Theatre Passe Muraille is Canada’s oldest theatre company developing and producing new Canadian work. Theatre Passe Muraille operates out of a designated historical building; the former Nasmith Bakery and Stables. But true to name, productions also take place “beyond walls” at site-specific locations across Toronto.

Theatre Passe Muraille is known for developing innovative and daring Canadian theatre, but we exist to support our communities. From encouraging independent and emerging artists, and multicultural work, to inspiring our staff and artists to work collaboratively, Theatre Passe Muraille works to ensure all voices are represented on our stage. For more information visit
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Additional Info

  • Review Theatre Name: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
  • Review Theatre Address: 16 Ryerson Avenue Toronto, ON Canada
Last modified on Thursday, 09 July 2015 05:05