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Volume 90, Issue 87
Tuesday, March 11, 1997
©Gazette file photo
DAMN THESE PUBLIC TOILETS. One-woman theatre production Tanya Jacobs expresses her deepest emotions in Big Face, now playing at The McManus Theatre.
By Jonathan Hale
You're sitting at a table, drink in hand, among many others in the same position. You may be sitting by a loved one, a stranger or a date, but it really doesn't matter. Moments after entering into this cabaret affair, you are taken on a journey through the lowest forms of life, through sexual experiences that most wouldn't dream of living, back to a realization that what is being described to you is painful and quite honestly, deadly. No, this is not at all referring to Rick McGhie's prose, but instead, the compelling performance at the McManus Theatre entitled Big Face.
In a discussion with the play's only character, played by Tanya Jacobs, she explains the basic story. "Ostensibly how it appears to be is a woman who loves to talk and is telling stories about many nights of her life, particularly the wild years she had in the badlands of Alberta."
This woman refers to herself as Big Face and she leads a life that became challenging at an early age when as a left-handed child she was forced to write with her right hand. It is a life that would be overcome by religion, a force that would have her seeking freedom from this overly divine pressure later in life.
Big Face portrays this character who tells the audience or the bar attendants, as it were various stories of: picking up men, mostly outlaw or hick-type characters; having sex with them and then losing them. She describes a Halloween where her boyfriend dresses up as a decorated Christmas tree. Another tale tells of her realization that she has fallen out of love when a boyfriend begins wearing underwear to bed. In one incident she finds herself laying drunk in a ditch having sex with a man she just met. The stories are told in very humourous rhetoric and to Jacobs, the character is not just basking in these experiences, but "craving to be those guys."
The play does not remain in this funny yet realistically depressing style, as the character's inner voice is also reflected enforced as the lights on stage shine blue. In this different scenario, the big-faced woman seems to bring her needs down to earth, coming to the realization that her lifestyle is not only leading nowhere, but is also unhealthy. Her face shows this emotional shift by donning much smaller features. At this time the character divulges stories or feelings that are much more serious to her life and not only introduces but follows through on the downward spiraling life of her brother, who reaches the brink of suicide before waking up.
These situations are very insightful, very metaphoric and very passionate, but they are short lived, because as the situation becomes too intense, the lights change once again, returning the audience to the familiar bar/storytelling scene.
Jacobs explains that to her, the character "is desperately telling stories to keep herself loathing." On top of this, she is also "grappling with her own self-loathing."
In the end, Big Face, whose life has followed an almost lethal path rarely led by most people, describes emotions and concerns that are very realistic and very relevant to everyone watching.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997