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Paul Rainville, David Whiteley and Teri Loretto-Valentik. Photo by Kat Wong.

Theatre Preview: Basket of Deplorables at The Gladstone – 12.07.17 and 12.08.17

By Brian Carroll on December 5, 2017

A World Premiere at The Gladstone Theatre: the world’s first live staged reading of Tom Rachman’s new audiobook, narrated by Teri Loretto-Valentik, Paul Rainville, David Whiteley, Brad Long and Rachelle Casseus.

Tom Rachman’s debut novel, The Imperfectionists, has been published in 25 languages. He worked as a journalist for the Associated Press.

Brian Carroll interviewed producer David Whiteley to tell Apt613 readers about the show and why they will want to see it.

Apt613: The name of the play is?

David Whiteley: Basket of Deplorables. It’s not technically a play, but it started its life as an audiobook. It was commissioned by Audible, from Tom Rachman, figuring that he’d have something relevant to say about the times.

It was conceived to be heard, not read. (It’s) really storytelling, a collection of stories, and each story is told by a different narrator, but very much with aaracters in situations. It really begs for actors presenting their stories, with interpretation, voice, acting with performance. It seemed that experiencing that live with a group of people was really worthwhile.

What is Basket of Deplorables about?

It references the famous statement, or perhaps mis-statement, by Hilary Clinton in the election. It (the audiobook) was prompted by the election results, in a great hurry following Trump being elected. It’s not about Trump, but about Trump supporters. It goes even further than that. (It) observes this climate, not just in the United States but in Canada and around the world, where there’s a lot of us-versus-them politics. A lot of looking down on political opponents. A lot of cliquishness and living in bubbles online. “My side is right and those other people are awful. I don’t have to deal with them, ‘cause I can just keep to the people who agree with my opinion.”

The divisions that we’re seeing in France and England and the States and Canada, even within the Conservative party with their leadership election, and in Quebec. This very vicious, divisive state.

To this, Rachman responds: Well, is it really those other people who are this finite and far-from-us group of deplorables? What if we look in the mirror? What if we look more broadly than that? Isn’t there a lot of awfulness going on among people who are also simultaneously sympathetic and well-intended? And maybe those other people at the opposite end of the political spectrum from us are actually nice people after all, well-meaning people and not the monsters we make them out to be.

Maybe there’s something monstrous about them. But we think we’re so well-meaning and good. Maybe there’s something monstrous about us too.

What keeps the script relevant?

We’re presenting it in two halves. It’s five stories. The first pair of stories, I call The “Almost True” Present. It’s anchored in the election itself and its immediate aftermath.

On the one hand, how a Manhattan socialite (a Democrat, a “smoked salmon socialist”) and the luxury left wing set gathered for a victory celebration. Then sitting through the election results. Picking apart the self-righteousness of that set remains relevant.

The second story likewise is the immediate fallout. It’s within a family divided with a left-wing brother (narrator) who’s just lost his very Trump-like older brother, who went into business and became a billionaire. It condenses the political divisions.

You talk about the Civil War being brother against brother. Well, this is our modern political life embodied in a family squabble, brother against brother. How do you mourn a brother whose way of being is so abhorrent to you?

The second part is projecting a future which will become an alternate reality in a few years. It’s less about trying to nail down “It’s going to be exactly like this.”, but more about “What’s important about what’s going on in our lives generally”. The big anchor there is predicting, in the near future, what Rachman calls “Leakzilla”. A giant floodgate opens all of the emails on all the big servers being put out there. Most of the world’s population loses its privacy.

The three stories are not all about that, but involve things that mix this divided political climate with the importance that technology has in our lives: social media and the increasing erosion of privacy.

The news from south of the border can be pretty depressing. Why do audiences want to see this show?

I see it as an antidote for our times. Because it’s not about Trump. It’s not about obsessing over the details of outrage over Charlottesville, or the Muslim ban, or the latest thing he’s done wrong, or the Pocahontas comment, or baiting Kim Jong Un, or heading towards nuclear war.

It’s about: let’s take a step back. How are we as people, and how well are we treating our neighbours, when some of our neighbours have very different views from us?

By taking a step back, maybe realizing life is going on. We may not always be making the best choices ourselves for how to express that life.

If we take a step back and breathe, we can remember that we do have values of respect and compassion. We can still find them.

The big things that we’ve rapidly been losing for the past few years of getting increasingly vicious. It’s not too late to say “No.” Being vicious, declaring yourself right and someone wrong and shutting your ears to reason, or (to) finding common ground, is not the only way.

It’s not so long ago that we actually liked being nice to each other. We can find that again.

This interview has been edited for length.

Basket of Deplorables by Plosive Productions is playing at The Gladstone Theatre Thursday December 7 and Friday December 8. The show is in two parts. Part One is at 6pm and Part Two is at 9pm. Each part can be purchased individually. The two parts are also available as a package for the same night, in which case The Gladstone provides food between the two parts. For more information see The Gladstone website. Tickets are $20 for each part at the website or at the door.