An Evening with Uncle Val

By Andy Jones and Michael Jones Sr. Directed by Lois Brown. At Presentation House Theatre on Thursday, June 5, as part of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. No remaining performances

Poor Uncle Val. The septuagenarian is trapped in St. John’s, having been forced to leave his outport home to live with his daughter, her loathsome husband, and their children, who don’t behave anything like kids did in his day. “Children ran messages,” he explains, “and in return, they were allowed to sleep indoors.” It’s a lonely life, till he befriends a 90-something neighbour who claims to be pals with both the royal family and the Beatles, meets a new girlfriend, and becomes the kids’ favourite babysitter.

Writer-performer Andy Jones has been doing Uncle Val for some 30 years, and in this show he also plays himself, offering explanations for his own wildly digressive style of storytelling. “I used to feel bad about it,” he confesses, “until I realized—it’s cubist theatre! It’s like I’m flattening out my brain.”

Jones’s restless mind churns out beautifully written, hilarious vignettes, celebrating the old storytellers of Newfoundland in a disarmingly down-to-earth style. Lois Brown’s direction is perfectly attuned to the performer’s lack of pretension: in the show’s biggest special effect, Jones pulls a string and creates a tiny snowfall on his shoulders. You’ll laugh your head off, but the writing also wistfully evokes a lost way of life. Here’s to Jones for keeping the stories alive.

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