PuSh 2018: Inside/Out - Neworld Theatre

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Inside/Out | Neworld Theatre | PuSh International Performing Arts Festival | Performance Works | January 17 – 21, 2018

Patrick Keating has a gift for storytelling. But he only found that out after spending twelve years in and out of federal correctional facilities until ending up in a theatre course taught by Richard Payne in Matsqui penitentiary. Keating ended up trading his crime community for the theatre community twenty years ago and since then has had roles in The X-Files, Fringe and Da Vinci's Inquest. In this one-man show, he shares his story with honesty and integrity, humanizing the prison experience.

Wearing all denim, evoking the look of monochrome prison attire, and carrying a cardboard office box, Keating begins by talking about his “file.” He was always told that whatever he did, good or bad, went in his file. He sets the box aside and begins telling us about his life, from the time he was a drug using 12-year-old until he ended up transferring from a Quebec prison to Matsqui. In between are stories that bring the prison experience to life; show the good, bad, and ugly of “life on the installment plan;” and show beautiful moments of humanity amidst the chaos. 

One of those moments of beauty that Keating talks about is a prisoner who he noticed sitting and staring out a window every night, as if he was waiting for something. Although it’s not good to be curious in prison, Keating couldn’t help himself and finally asked someone what this guy was doing. It turned out his wife lived in an apartment that was visible from the prison window. Each night, she would flick her light on and off to say goodnight. 

Keating’s descriptions of daily life in prison, the system itself, and incidents such as escapes or brawls are full of nuance and wry humour. There were many moments when the audience laughed out loud, but the funniest image he left me with was two RCMP officers (horsemen as he referred to them) herding Keating around the airport in Vancouver, lost and trying to figure out where they were supposed to go. “There we were, two assholes and a con,” he said, as he described shuffling around the airport in his shackles.

Each time Keating was released from prison, he would resolve to live life differently, but soon he would be back on drugs and back in his life of petty crime. As he described it, there’s no parade for you when you get out of jail, but the parade happens when you return, when your friends welcome you back home.   

It’s clear that theatre is important to Keating. After all, he postponed his release date just to remain in prison and be in a show they were preparing. Before taking Payne’s class, Keating hadn’t even seen a play. Now, he’s a natural on stage. This is a riveting, authentic, and honest prison memoir that provides a new perspective to the life of a repeat offender.

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