The Lifespan of a Fact

Ben Immanuel, Loretta Walsh, Tal Shulman. Photo Credit: Shimon Karmel.

The Lifespan of a Fact

The LIfespan Of A Fact 
By Jeremy Karaken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell 
Based on the book by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal 
Directed by Jennifer Clement 
A Kindred Theatre Society Production 
Studio 16,1555 West 7th Ave.,Vancouver 
May 2nd to 12th, 2024. 

Vancouver, BC:  Three pages in to my reading of The LifeSpan Of A Fact, the book on which this play is based, I knew that this would be the sort of theatre that would draw me back to my original roots in online reviewing that began in 2006 with the launch of  My original concept was to write from the perspective of an audience member. I shared the emotional impact that a production had on me, how the script and performances resonated with my passions and prejudices, rather than focusing on the "facts" of the production. 

 Last night I left Studio 16, deeply satisfied by the nuanced way this provocative, complex and emotional script was brought to life by three actors  at the top of their game (Loretta Walsh as Emily, Ben Immanuel as John, and Tal Shulman as Jim). And I was eager for intense discussion and debate on the underlying issues. 

Although fact checking in its myriad forms was important in my previous professional life – peer-review of journal articles, reproducing experimental results, checking statistics and calculations - fact checkers only came to my attention in the context of censorship during the pandemic. I had never much thought about it in the context of the creative arts.  

The central issue here is whether the impact of a creative non-fiction essay, will be destroyed by the writer slightly changing or embellishing facts cited in the essay. Editor Emily, sees the essay by creative-writing teacher, John, as a brilliant and superbly emotional work to be the central piece of the next edition of her magazine.  She invites Jim, her new intern, to fact check the piece before publishing – find correct spelling of names, places and other small details. Jim takes his assignment way more than seriously. He becomes obsessed as he finds multiple inaccuracies in the first sentence alone. Emily casually suggests he check with John, and the conflict begins.  

I laughed out loud as I read Jim's many queries about the first sentence of the essay.  Admittedly it was long and complex. I sympathized with John's initial bewilderment and then growing frustration that this pipsqueak intern couldn't see how slightly massaging or polishing the facts heightened the flow and emotional impact of the story.  

So we ask, what are the boundaries between fact and creative non-fiction? Does a black and white photograph evoke the same feeling as the colours and textures in a painting of the same subject? Does a precisely played piece of music evoke the same emotions as one played with changes in mood, tempo, sound level but missing the occasional noe?

In this production I found that the set and lighting also conveyed the same struggle between reality or art.  For me the blood red pre show lighting of the set had a visceral impact, which disappeared when the true flat monotone whiteness of the set was revealed.  Jim was banished to the basement – which wasn't a basement.  And 48 seconds of silence felt like an eternity! 

Overall I enjoyed every moment of this show. It is only on till May 12th, so do not miss it 

Get your ticket HERE