Updated: Feb 12
Before the start of WET, the latest daring production from Vancouver-based company ITSAZOO, the audience is warned about language, violence, nudity, loud noises, and claustrophobic spaces. We were not to be disappointed.
WET is a raw, unflinching look at the human costs of war, and the true gravity of living with PTSD. Written by award-winning playwright David James Brock, and directed by Chelsea Haberlin, the story centers around three individuals whose lives are entwined with the military.
Burns (Genevieve Fleming) is a sergeant who returns from a tour in Afghanistan in a state of near total paralysis. Her husband (Matthew MacDonald-Bain) grapples with the emotional labour of caring for her, while struggling to stay afloat in rapidly deteriorating economic circumstances. The third player is darkly comical Tom (Praneet Akilla), who served with Burns, and through whom the audience gains insight into the fateful events that took place in Afghanistan. Fleming’s portrayal of a person living in a state of complete mental and physical shutdown is particularly moving.
An aural and visual trip designed to be experienced by a small audience of no more than twenty-eight people at a time, one of WET’s key strengths is the proximity of the actors to the audience. My initial reflex was to feel almost embarrassed at finding myself so deep inside the actors’ personal spaces. Although there are moments of levity, the subject matter is grim, and the action is very close, and very personal. In the end, I felt an undeniable bond with the actors, who were frequently literally within arm’s length; but I also felt a vague kinship with my fellow audience members, who were clearly visible through the entire performance, unlike in more conventional theatrical arrangements.
The uneasy sound design (Mishelle Cuttler) gets under your skin, and the lighting (Conor Moore) dips into some familiarly Lynchian territory. Rounding out the creative team are Cheyenne Mabberly (SFX), Chantal Short (Costume Design), and Jenn Stewart (Set & Prop Design). Sebastien Archibald is the producer.
The themes are heavy and extremely timely. The ubiquity of PTSD among veterans, and the crippling frustration they routinely face navigating the bureaucratic nightmare of a system unwilling and incapable to adequately care for them, are deeply problematic issues - and WET does an admirable job of humanizing them.
ITSAZOO, founded in 2004, has earned a name for itself by producing uncompromising works that push at the boundaries of theater. Its self-proclaimed core values are immersion, risk, fun, and community.