In theatre school there is the janitor test. If a janitor walked into the room and did not understand what was going on, would he believe it was acting or was it real? The goal is to fool the janitor into thinking it is genuinely taking place. Building 17: A Conspiracy in One Act passes the janitor test, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
The lights come up on Paul, a guest lecturer at a military academy speaking to the audience about his experience in wartime. In charge of helping plan and prepare strikes on enemy armouries, his hope was for as few civilian casualties as possible. He shares a particular story of an attack that does not go as planned.
Actor and writer T. Roy is an unassuming performer, very at ease with his material, disappearing into his character. He paints a great picture with his words, only a bag and a water bottle for props. He’s very watchable if the material interests you.
Roy also has several great moments including recollecting scenes from Schindler’s List, imagining what a nuclear arms dealer as a car salesman might be like, and one particularly poignant line I scribbled down, “you can’t bomb people into agreeing with you”.
While presented largely as a lecture, towards the end Roy shares some repercussions of his actions. It’s an emotional moment that caught me off guard. In a show often bogged down by information it was very welcome.
If you have no interest in war or the art of war, this show won’t be for you. While Roy is watchable, the material can be more educational than entertaining but if you’re looking for well-crafted historical story-telling you’ll want to make time for Building 17.
Building 17: A Conspiracy in One Act continues at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen St, Halifax) as part of the Halifax Fringe Festival. Visit halifaxfringe.ca for tickets and information.