Family turmoil at the heart of next Live Five play

Bob Wicks and Katelyn Polischuk feature in the Live Five show 'The Josephine Knot' at The Refinery from Nov. 9 to 12 and Nov. 16 to 19, 2023. (Supplied / Photo by Clare Middleton)

A family dealing with the passing of a loved one is an experience that’s all too relatable — and is the centre of the upcoming play in the Live Five season.

The Josephine Knot is a play written by Meg Braem and produced by The Hagstone Collective as the next show in the lineup for Saskatoon’s Live Five Independent Theatre. The play follows Samantha (Katelyn Polischuk), their father David (Bob Wicks) and the rest of the family as they deal with the pieces left behind in the aftermath of their Baba’s death.

Polischuk, who is also a co-producer of the play, said it’s a story that will resonate deeply with the audience. When she first read the play in 2016, Polischuk said she found it interesting but it didn’t “stick.”

Coming back to it shortly after experiencing a loss in their own family — and shortly after the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic — gave them a new appreciation for it.

“I loved that this play deals with a lot of those themes of loss and grief but does it in a way that doesn’t shy away from the grotesque, the dark humour of that situation,” she said. “I thought the family relationships it depicted were really interesting and complex.”

The play is a two-hander — which means only two performers in Polischuk and Wicks. And while the duo might centrally play the daughter-father duo of Samantha and David respectively, they will also jump between performing the roles of various other family members.

Clare Middleton, the director of The Josephine Knot, called it a “beautiful” script that humanizes and emphasizes those relatable themes of family and grieving.

“It’s poetry. The situations and the way the characters relate to each other are so essentially human,” she said. “Can you ask for anything more than a bit of humour and also to feel human, and validated in those human feelings?

It’s also a show that lowers the barrier between the audience and the cast, according to Polischuk. She said although she’s not addressing the audience directly with their lines, the performers are able to draw viewers in and make them feel like part of the show.

Or as Polischuk puts it, it’s like the famous fourth wall simply doesn’t exist in this play.

“It’s one of the things that drew me to this script in the first place, the opportunity to … tell (the story) in a way that we really are inviting the audience to feel the feelings with us,” Polischuk said. “The audience is always present with us, even in the scenes where we talk to each other.”

Middleton said the play shines in how it explores grief from many angles. As Polischuk and Wicks play a plethora of different characters, the audience gets to experience perspectives on grief and family from a plethora of viewpoints.

For Middleton, The Josephine Knot shows how the people in our lives are much more complicated than we give them credit for — and it gives the audience opportunities to empathize with a family that will seem so much like their own.

“Everyone has to go through loss. It’s shocking to me how bad we are at deaths — how we haven’t figured out how to go through it in a way that doesn’t feel messy,” she said. “It’s nice to talk about that in an honest way.”

The Josephine Knot, produced by The Hagstone Collective, runs Nov. 9 to 12 and Nov. 16 to 19 at The Refinery. Tickets can be purchased online at https://ontheboards.ca.

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