KTS production too violent for Dalhousie students

The King’s Theatrical Society performance of Bash leads to student complaints.

By Gracie Callahan

A scene from the performance, when the character John starts beating up a homosexual.
A controversial scene from Bash. 

Five Dalhousie students complained saying they were traumatized by the King’s Theatrical Society’s performance of Bash on Friday night.

The performance was staged in the Red Room at King’s and consisted of three unique stories. The first story opened with an apparently happy couple onstage. But the plot darkens, turning the man into a beast as he beats another man to death for being gay.

In the second story, a 16-year-old girl sits alone in an empty room, talking to what the audience assumes to be the police. She admits to being sexually abused by her teacher at 13-years-old and impregnated by 14. She later drowns her child in a bathtub after her teacher leaves her.

The final story follows a middle-aged man sitting alone, talking to a drunk person in a bar. He admits to watching his six-month-old baby suffocate underneath his duvet cover.

Susan Higgins, a fourth-year student at Dalhousie University and a member of the LGBT community said the performance was a two-hour piece containing multiple violent scenes about homophobia, pedophilia and child abuse.

“The content displayed throughout this play is harsh material for anyone to sit and watch,” said Higgins. “I think if the director chose to specifically present this play … he should have considered toning down the amount of violence in consideration of the audience’s comfort, sexuality and personal issues.”

Some spectators from Dalhousie said they were unaware of what Bash was about before they went, so the show’s physical and emotional violence came as a shock.

Higgins said the audience was silent the entire play. A couple people in her row had to close their eyes when the character John beat a homosexual to death at the beginning.

If she had known about the subject matter, Higgins said she wouldn’t have attended the play.

Producer Meg Shields, a second-year student at the University of King’s College, said their intentions weren’t to traumatize or devastate the audience in any way.

The audience gathering into the Red Room, approximately five minutes before the play began.
The audience gathering into the Red Room, approximately five minutes before the play began.

Aaron Shenkman, director and sixth-year King’s student, said that when choosing the play for this year, he thought the unsettling and destructive aspects of Bash really tied in to what King’s students learn when reading Hegel, Plato and Aristotle during the Foundation Year Programme.

“While it is important to think that King’s students should see something like this, because of what they’re dealing with in philosophy,” said Shenkman. “I don’t think that really takes anything away from someone who hasn’t engaged in those things.”

Shields said Bash is essentially about what goes bump in the night. The story follows average people who are child abusers and sex offenders in disguise.

“The guy next to you on the bus, it’s the girl that got pregnant in high school, and the frat boy. It’s the businessman and the beautiful couple,” said Shields. “It’s anyone.”

Lucy Kadar, a student at Dalhousie and King’s, said she understands why some people could feel traumatized after watching such a strong performance. But Kadar reminds everyone that it’s only art.

“I agree that the performance was hard to watch at times and the content of the play is intense, but it’s merely a performance,” said Kadar. “The entire cast and crew put a ton of work into amusing the audience, it’s the reason why no one got up and left during the play. Without realizing it, they were all quite entertained.”

“There’s something incredibly healthy about being traumatized by a piece of art,” said Shenkman. “To walk into a performance and to feel really truly uncomfortable about yourself and the world you live in.”

After the show, the cast took questions from the audience. Some audience members asked the actors how they felt taking on the roles of these violent characters. Another asked if the four performance nights received different reactions from the audience.

“The questions were helpful in bringing the audience back to reality,” said Kadar. “Without it, I think the audience would have left devastated and uncomfortable, and possibly quite hurt. I don’t think that was their intention at all.”

The school said they would not be acting on the complaints, as many of the students did not wish for anything to be done. The school said the students were only ensuring that it was aware of the play and its contents, and recommended it inform parents and fellow students before attending.