Skip to main content

Actor Sina Gilani confronts audiences with The 20th of November show Photo credit to just Jeremy Mimnagh

Jeremy Mimnagh

1.5 out of 4 stars

Title
The 20th of November
Written by
Lars Noren , translated by Gord Rand
Directed by
Brendan Healy
Actors
Sina Gilani
Venue
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
City
Toronto
Runs Until
Sunday, October 04, 2015

On Nov. 20, 2006, at around 9:20 a.m., an 18-year-old former student of the Geschwister-Scholl-Schule in Emsdetten, Germany, returned to his alma mater with two rifles and two pistols and went on a rampage. Twenty-two people were injured in the high school shooting; the shooter, who shot himself, was the only fatality.

Shortly thereafter, Lars Noren, Sweden's best-known living playwright, created a monologue called The 20th of November. The script is 95-per-cent composed of words straight from the perpetrator's video diaries and blog entries. The play premiered in 2007 – and has since been performed all over Europe.

On Sept. 17, 2015, at approximately 8:05 p.m., the English-language premiere of Noren's play began at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto. It was translated by Gord Rand, directed by Brendan Healy and Sina Gilani played the shooter.

Story continues below advertisement

About an hour later, a man walked out of the play – which Healy staged with the audience sitting in a large circle with the shooter, as if we were all at a giant group-therapy session. Half an hour after that, I ran into the man who walked out, on my own way out. The following is a 95-per-cent accurate account of what we said to each other.

Critic: Why did you walk out?

Man: I felt like it was boring and long – and self-consciously trying to be alternative or counterhegemonic when it wasn't at all. Teen angst, like, with a lot of pauses while we glare at you. And the idea is that we're complicit, right? That we're supposed to feel bad somehow.

Critic: Yeah, did you feel –

Man: You just take a guy's notebooks, right, and go blah-blah-blah. We already know that already. And I was looking around at all these people at an opening who look, frankly, white and bourgeois.

Critic: So, what did you do for the last 20 minutes or so while it finished?

Man: I'll tell you: I tried to go take a [expletive] in the McDonald's and it was a hard time getting in the bathroom and they didn't have TP – and it was a real thing. And I phoned my girlfriend. [He points to his girlfriend, who has wandered up.]

Story continues below advertisement

Girlfriend: I'd have left out the McDonald's story.

Critic: What did you think of the actor? I thought he was kind of chilling.

Man: He was fine, for that redundant cadence. I don't think Buddies has been a place of subversive or dangerous theatre for a long time. I don't know where that is, right now. Not in Toronto – it's just a neo-liberal, yuppie city.

Critic: I was torn about the play because there have been school shootings here by guys with messed-up manifestos. Why give time to the ramblings of someone who shot up a school entirely to be remembered?

Man: I'm a high-school teacher. I teach at [redacted] and I taught at alternative schools before that. Yeah, so you'd think I'd have a vested interest in it.

Girlfriend: If you're doing this for an article, don't put in where he teaches.

Story continues below advertisement

Man: I just don't like seeing youth reduced to these clichés, either, you know. Do you feel like it taught you about why people are alienated and might do something like that?

Critic: I feel like what he was saying is like a lot of what I read on the Internet from all sorts of gross minds all the time. That was maybe the thing that bothered me about the show – or maybe actually got to me – is just how banal this language is. You stumble upon it in comment sections.

Man: Maybe they should have put a spin on it. Didn't Andrew Scorer and Tracy Wright do this kind of thing before already – record something and then repeat it back verbatim? [He's talking about The Seaford Tapes, an early experiment in verbatim theatre from 1992.] You weren't bored, eh?

Critic: No, I actually thought about walking out a couple of times when the actor confronted us directly. I thought that was the provocation.

Man: Oh, you thought I did the right thing.

Critic: Yeah, that's why I wanted to talk to you. I thought you were the one non-complacent audience member because you walked out on the disgusting garbage he was spouting.

Story continues below advertisement

Man: Maybe they should have ranged the material a little bit? It just felt like this thing designed to make the audience feel guilty or something.

Critic: Yeah, I was annoyed to be lectured by this guy. Like, about how we're obsessed with big cars. I biked here.

Man: I don't like cars. But you're supposed to be bad and evil if you have a car? Is that what they're saying? I don't like capitalism, either. I'm an anarchist and I'm with Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Is that what that was about?

Critic: Well, in the end, he said he was an anarchist, actually.

Man (sarcastically): Oh, I get it. Okay.

Critic: There was nothing coherent about his critique of society. But, then, it almost all came from his actual blog.

Story continues below advertisement

Man: Yeah, I knew that before coming. Which made me worried.

Critic: Fair enough. Well, thanks for your time.

Man: Take care.

Critic: See you around.

The 20th of November continues to Oct. 4 (buddiesinbadtimes.com).

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter