Dates and Venue 18 – 30 March 2014, 8pm (Sat & Sun 2pm matinees) | The Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch

Written & performed by Jayson McDonald Director Jeff Cuthbert Sound Design Jayson McDonald

Reviewer John Jane

Jayson McDonald’s solo, sixty-minute show Underbelly was first seen in Vancouver as part of the 2012 Fringe Festival. It won the Georgia Straight Critic’s Choice Award as well as the Cultchivating the Fringe Award for which it is now being rewarded with a run of fourteen performances at the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab.

Jayson McDonald lives in a dark world – not his own world – one inspired and devised by William S. Burroughs that is enveloped by chaos, nihilism and nuclear Armageddon. McDonald claims creative credit for the counter cultural verse and anarchic ranting, but the influence is unmistakably from Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Burroughs and others that defined the so-called “Beat Generation.”

McDonald goes for portentous humour rather than broad comedy, taking on the persona of central narrator “Willy” (presumably Burroughs himself), in a phantasmagoria absorbed with the fifties psychology of cataclysm. In an extract of prose, whose form, that some might describe as slam poetry he characterizes an allegorical gunfighter with a profound sense of justice. In another, he pledges mocking allegiance to the strains of “Onward Christian Soldiers” (an English processional hymn).

To paraphrase King George VII (in The King’s Speech), I couldn’t completely understand what he (McDonald) was doing, but he was certainly doing it rather well.

© 2014 John Jane