Written and performed by Adam Grant Warren. Directed by Derek Chan. A rice & beans theatre production, presented as part of rEvolver Festival. At the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab on Monday, May 29. Continues until June 4
Heartbreak, disillusionment, humiliation—in Last Train In, Adam Grant Warren takes a searching look back on a defining experience of being (literally) stuck.
Warren’s originally from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, but since most people in B.C. haven’t heard of Mount Pearl, he tells people he’s from St. John’s. He teaches in Richmond, but since most Newfoundlanders haven’t heard of Richmond, he tells people back home that he teaches in Vancouver. And when he says he taught English 10 years ago in London, U.K., what he really means is a small town in Essex, a 25-minute train ride away.
That train ride is important, because at the heart of the show is the story of the night Adam takes the last train back to his small town, Hadley Cross, and gets trapped in the station. There’s no elevator, and the stationmaster, who usually carries Adam’s wheelchair across the bridge while Adam—who has cerebral palsy—takes his time walking up the stairs, is off for the evening. So what does Adam do? The relaxed approach to factual accuracy in Adam’s descriptions of where he’s from and where he works offers a big clue to his reliability in recounting the events of that night. Peeling away the layers of fabrication to get to the truth—which is surprising and unsentimental—is what gives the show its dramatic arc.
Under Derek Chan’s direction, Warren is a likable and engaging storyteller, attuned and responsive to his audience. There are moments of sensual lyricism in his writing, like his description of a summer night “when the heat makes everything smell like pavement and metal”. And Warren has a wry perspective on his youthful idealism as he recalls “my whole Dead-Poets-Society-Dangerous-Minds-Mr.-Holland’s-Opus teaching career”.
Warren’s physicality is central to the story; not only does he pop several wheelies in his chair, but he deconstructs and rearranges Sophie Yufei Tang’s set of rolling platforms right along with the facts of his tale. With the simple click of a button (which later takes on thematic significance), he summons James Coomber’s superbly atmospheric sound design and Jessica Han’s special lighting cues to further enliven his telling.
The run is short, but this Train is worth catching.