The simplest way to describe The December Man is that it’s depressing, from beginning to end, or a better way to put it would be from end to beginning. Following the events of the Polytechnique Massacre, The December Man is a play which pays tribute to the women who lost their lives in that horrific tragedy, and also those who had life-long scars in the days, months and years following. The December Man follows Jean, a young and promising Engineering Student, whose daily life is upended as he starts to relive the nightmares that he witnessed on the fateful day, wishing he could transform himself into a hero to put an end to the haunting visions. The play works backwards through time, opening with a vignette that holds no punches as it very quickly and graphically shows the fates of our three main characters.
It’s not an easy show to watch, because after the first vignette finishes we know exactly how it’s going to end, or rather, how it will begin, which just fills the audience with a sense of foreboding and loss that they’ve already experienced, but will have to eventually relive again. It’s in this manner that the play becomes emotionally manipulative. The audience doesn’t have a choice except to buckle in and go on this trip down the rabbit hole.
The performances are biting and raw and each of the actors are amazing. Paul Rainville, as Benoit, Jean’s father, and Kate Hennig, as Kathleen, Jean’s mother, held this show together with an amazing chemistry that truly felt like it transcended the stage. Kayvon Kelly, who played Jean, brought a spectacular range of emotion to the stage that allowed the audience to truly feel the anguish of his character.
The December Man is a show that packs a punch, it’s one that you haunts you for days after, making you reflect on how you might react if you were in the same situation. The show prompts personal reflective questions like: if I was in Jean’s shoes, would I react the same way he did? Would I feel the same sense of loss? The same sense of worthlessness? If I was in Jean’s parents shoes would I have handled Jean’s emotional and mental descent in a different manner? Would I Have felt as hopeless as Benoit and Kathleen came across? Would I feel like I had a way out?
It’s gut-wrenching emotional questions like these that make The December Man an important piece of theatre history, despite the fact that it is definitely not a show for everyone. This is a fitting story for the time of turmoil the world finds itself embroiled in today, which allows us a voyeuristic look at how such a pronounced display of violence and terrorism can affect a unique individuals private affairs and cause them to lose parts of who they are and ultimately become a different person altogether.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Did you have an emotional reaction to The December Man? Was it easy or hard to watch? Join the discussion in the comments below.