Two Stroke Roll

Review by John Bourke

Two Stroke Roll, part of Factory Theatre’s Performance Spring Festival, is a one person show written and performed by David King. There’s two different ways of looking at shows like this. On the one hand, it tends to be a very personal experience, almost voyeuristic; on the other hand, without the objective input of another person on a show, the singular focus can lead to someone perhaps not cutting or changing something that perhaps should. I mention this simply because Two Stroke Roll has a good chunk of focus, but could also benefit a little from some judicious cutting or changing.

The title of the piece is a reference to a specific drumming technique that uses two bounces of a drum stick to make a very rapid fire roll; similarly, the show is made up of two pieces, Song Telling and Once, each of which has their own specific tone. Song Telling, the prelude to Once, is a collection of six spoken word pieces set to music ranging from classical to blues with subject matter that ranges from love and death to drug dealing and prostitution. King’s delivery is as varied as the music and the subject matter, but in all cases he brings his unique sense of humour and surrealism to the stories. While fans of traditional narrative might find this approach difficult to follow, those who find enjoyment in the stream of consciousness in song lyrics and poetry will find much to attract them.

Once, the second part of the evening, is part beat poetry, part story telling and part drum recital. King weaves what we’re led to understand are autobiographical elements of his own childhood in Winnipeg, and the real-life death of a child and a good Samaritan in the melting ice of the Assiniboine river in 1959. Live drumming tells us about his own relationships with his father and mother and even his development as a musician when he was a child. At times the mix of story, poetry and drumming don’t quite work, but overall they make for a fascinating journey. As with Song Telling, I don’t know if it would suit everyone, but if you can get past the non-traditional narrative and just let yourself be taken up in King’s often humorous delivery, it is very enjoyable.

Overall, I’m very happy to have seen the show and had a great evening in the Factory theatre’s intimate studio theatre. Factory Theatre’s Performance Spring series continues with Yann Martel’s The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios until May 25th and a late night series featuring Jonny Harris’ Kickinthepills and …And Counting! by Toni Nardi. Tickets for all shows can be purchased from the Factory Theatre box office and online.