Entertainment

Mitch and Murray Productions presents acclaimed work by U.K. playwright Mike Bartlett.

Mitch and Murray Productions presents Canadian premiere of acclaimed work by U.K. playwright Mike Bartlett.

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An Intervention

When: March 8-17, various times

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Where: Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright St., Granville Island

Tickets/info: From $15 at mitchandmurraryproductions.com


In today’s politically charged climate, it doesn’t take much to turn friend into foe. An opposing view is no longer a place to begin debate, instead it is the ground upon which many a long and rewarding relationship will end.

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When a foreign war in the Middle East divides two longtime friends already entangled in other interpersonal challenges, the grey area around friendship, responsibility and when to act becomes hard to determine. The situations that lead us into such decision making form the core of the story in Olivier and BAFTA award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett‘s An Intervention.

Described as “a touching and funny play about what happens when you hate your best friend,” An Intervention has its Canadian premiere in a Mitch and Murray Production at Performance Works. Company founder Aaron Craven says Bartlett’s play struck him as a perfect work to mount today.

“I always loved the play for how it begins as a political argument and then evolves into the interventions we stage in the lives of those who are close to us,” said Craven. “When the Middle East blew up this fall, and the play initially being about an unknown conflict in the region, it was timely. We have all become so fragmented and divided, regardless of where we stand, and the Middle East has become another wedge that divides people.”

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Mitch and Murray Productions previously produced Bartlett’s play Snowflake, which delved into the generational conflicts between fathers and daughters playing out in modern times. Like most of the playwright’s work, the initial catalyst of a political act or observation transfers into a deeper dive into interpersonal contacts and all of their emotional confusion.

“Bartlett is kind of a combination between Pinter and Mamet and all the best,” said Craven. “He treads the fine line between drama and comedy and it never veers into the saccharine. I love that type of writing.”

For his part, Bartlett freely admits that An Intervention is another chapter in a career that has focused on asking questions that he doesn’t have an answer to and trying to work out some kind of response to them. He notes that if the process of finding that resolution is enjoyable, the playwright has achieved their goal.

“An Intervention is really a play about boundaries between individual human beings and determining what are your duties as a friend when to step over those boundaries to help them out and when it isn’t okay to do that and get involved,” said Bartlett. “It’s linking that to a country’s responsibilities to step over their boundaries and get involved. As someone who is British, I see it as about our duties and responsibilities to the rest of the world versus making interventions that are massively unhelpful. Britain has a history of doing both of those things going back centuries, and extending that to the greater world.”

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Bartlett stresses that the play is not an overtly political essay, but rather a dramatization of the relationship between two individuals played out against a shifting tableaus of personal and political incidents. He also incorporated aspects of therapy into the writing to fully reflect the complex nature of contemporary relations, both among friends and random meetings.

Kate Craven
Kate Craven is a Vancouver-based actor who is starring in Mitch and Murray’s production An Intervention. Photo by Mitch and Murray /sun

“Therapists talk a lot about boundaries and being authentic to oneself, and that sounds pretty good all around,” he said. “But all of us are aware of how those lines can become blurred when things such as alcohol or similar such things are involved. We’ve all been in that position when it is your duty as a friend to go beyond certain boundaries and step in or to stay behind them and, potentially, watch someone do something potentially catastrophic for them.”

An Intervention was written around the rise of social media and its affects on personal relationships, both negative and positive. Bartlett notes that there was a time when people might have left old friend groups to expand into far larger ones online.

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“But I think that may have run full circle now, and the presence of social media and access to all these very wide networks has presented challenges to those few, true personal connections,” he said. “Particularly post-COVID, you realize just how precious those few connections you have that are in the sphere of those who you meet up with in person to share a drink with really are to you. The play is partly about when you let someone go, or refuse to let them go.”

An Intervention addresses those times when your illusion of who you see yourself going off into the sunset with in your life is shattered by things as obvious as a disagreement over sides taken in a conflict far away to the more illusive aspects of the reality of life changes leading to moving on from old friendships.

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