Review: Inside/Out at PuSh Festival

The PuSh Festival will be running until Sunday, February 4. To visit the festival website and learn more about upcoming shows, go here.

Photo by Ryan Alexander McDonald

Photo by Ryan Alexander McDonald

Patrick Keating stands on the nearly bare stage, holding a brown box. Inside the box are files upon files that describe his years as a repeat offender within the Canadian criminal justice system—or at least they’re supposed to describe his experience. What Keating finds is that these files give very little insight into what his time was really like, how he got there, how he felt, what he thought. What cannot be described in the files is exactly what Keating tells the audience in his 80-minute monologue. He tells stories of his childhood, cut short by early drug use and criminal involvement. Keating is soft spoken, with a soft demeanour. His stories are sometimes painful, sometimes funny, but always biting and eloquent.

Inside/Out, presented as part of PuSh Festival, is a personal journey, an artistic memoir. But it also guides discourse about the revolving doors of the criminal justice system and the dehumanizing effects that the system can perpetrate. All other elements of the play are quite simple: there is no extravagant costume or set design, and the focus remains entirely on Keating and his words.

Keating challenges common stereotypes and misconceptions we generally hold about people within the criminal justice system. He smashes stigmas around criminalized folks by providing the audience with stories and details that could not be found in files or documents. His stories present the unique individual—what is beyond the numbers. Inside/Out is an important play to watch and its message is one that we certainly need to hear more often.