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Award-winning Dutch play 'Poison,' about a couple grieving their son and each other, opens Thursday at the LSPU Hall

Aiden Flynn and Alex Koetting star in "Poison” as an estranged husband and wife who meet for the first time in a decade near the grave of their young son.
Aiden Flynn and Alex Koetting star in "Poison” as an estranged husband and wife who meet for the first time in a decade near the grave of their young son. - Contributed

A couple meets again, face-to-face for the first time in a decade, in a cemetery chapel near the grave of their son. He was a boy when he was killed in a traffic accident, and his parents have each received word that a toxin has been detected in the groundwater. Their son's remains, they've been told, will have to be disinterred and reburied somewhere safer.

Torn apart — yet bound together — by grief, the couple chose separate paths a long time ago.

He left the country for France, where he started a new life with a new partner and is writing a book.

She stayed, devoting her time to tending to her boy's grave, living in sorrow.

"We're a man and a woman who have lost a child," he says to her at one point. "Who first lost a child and then each other. Or maybe I should say, who first lost a child, then themselves, and then each other."

So goes the central story in "Poison," the acclaimed 2009 play by Dutch playwright Lot Vekemans. Often cited as one of the most internationally successful plays to come out of the Netherlands, "Poison" won the 2010 Taalunie Toneelschrijfprijs Award for Best New Dutch Play, saw a successful run in New York and an opening in London, and has been translated into at least eight languages.

"There are times when Aiden and I are in the same place for a long period of time without saying anything, and I almost turn my head and forget where we are. There are such beautiful moments of stillness."

 — Alex Koetting

Director Charlie Tomlinson and actors Alex Koetting and Aiden Flynn will bring their interpretation of the play to St. John's Thursday, with a four-day run at the LSPU Hall. The trio has spent a full year on the production, between work on other individual projects. Though there's only a cast of two and there are no bells nor whistles when it comes to the dialogue and the set, "Poison" is a play that goes deeper than many others, and in which the words that remain unspoken are just as important as those that are said.

"Charlie said it the other day in rehearsal and I agree — it's almost filmic," Koetting told The Telegram. "There are times when Aiden and I are in the same place for a long period of time without saying anything, and I almost turn my head and forget where we are. There are such beautiful moments of stillness."

The unspoken dialogue in the script between Koetting and Flynn's characters is also often part of an awkward dance, the interaction of two people who start off uncomfortable and distanced from each other. They slowly confront their past and some long-held issues through revelations to each other.

"Do you know what I find strange? That things only happen when it doesn't matter anymore," she says to him.

"Are you talking about me?" he asks.

"Partly," she replies.

The success of "Poison" is perhaps due in part to its universal themes, and they are what pulled Koetting in, as well. She and Flynn were approached by Tomlinson with the idea of producing the play, and felt instantly connected.

"It was just something that resonated with me," she explains. "I noticed similarities. And it's just such a beautiful glimpse of these two people at this point in time. You're able to see snippets of who they were in the past, but there's still lots of room for the audience to fill in the blanks.

"I hope the audience goes along with us, perhaps connects with us emotionally, and perhaps finds something in the piece that speaks to them."

"Poison" will run Jan. 10-12 at 8 p.m., Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. (a pay-what-you-can matinee, with tickets available at the door), and Jan. 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the LSPU Hall box office, by calling 753-4531 and online at lspuhall.com.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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