The satirical show This is Cancer goes into dark places with a flashlight.
And that flashlight is humour.
Star Bruce Horak portrays the living embodiment of cancer in the no-holds barred production of This is Cancer.
It’s his story. It’s his father’s story. It’s for everyone who’s been touched by cancer.
Turns out that self-absorbed Cancer is an egotistical jerk in gold lamé who’s ultimately out to destroy us.
Horak says the character came to him when he was working on a cabaret piece.
“I had to change the name. I ended up calling him Cancer.”
As a cancer survivor himself and someone who lost his father to the disease, the show manages to be uplifting, charming and powerful all at once.
“I had it so young, humour was just the way my family dealt with the darker stuff,” and humour was the balm that helped when he father got sick, too.
The subject can frighten some people off. He’s been doing the show for seven years, and he’s never had a walkout.
Ok, truth is he had one. But turns out the poor audience member had just lost her husband the day before.
“Performing this character is cathartic,” Horak says. “It’s absolutely intrinsically my story.”
But Cats, or The Glass Menageries, it is not.
“I often get told it’s the most unusual piece of theatre anyone has ever seen,” says Horak.
“You take a risk and sometimes is also works out.”
As Canada’s only legally blind actor, having lost 90 per cent of his vision to the disease, Horak has created a way to put a face to the disease. With superb comedic timing and stellar dance moves, he has produced a show that is really more about lightly examining life’s lumps and bumps than it is about getting too serious.
There are some really humorous elements, but it’s not entirely a comedy.
Cancer boasts irreverently about his most recent victims and then seems hurt to discover that we all despise him. It’s hilarious, but it doesn’t stop at humour.
“There’s some raw emotion and darker stuff,” he says. “And there’s direct address, meaning there’s interaction with the audience. It’s a whole other ride people will be going on.”
Horak is originally from Calgary, spent a decade in Toronto and is now based in Vancouver.
He’s been on the road for three years.
This show has been touring since 2006. Nominated for Outstanding Performance of a Musical or Comedy, and winner of Outstanding Actor in a Musical or Comedy, This is Cancer is an emotionally charged show.
It’s a way for the audience to see the world through cancer’s eyes. It’s bizarre, and one of the most rewarding and difficult pieces Horak says he’s ever done.
There is a strong message of love and hope that comes shining through.
It gives the people in the room a chance to settle their feelings on cancer, to perhaps even laugh at it, robbing the disease of its unspoken power.
The underlying pull of the show is asking the audience to live, and have a laugh.
This is Cancer is generously sponsored by Simpson Notaries, The Chilliwack Progress, Department of Canadian Heritage and the British Columbia Arts Council.
This is Cancer, March 19, 7:30 p.m. at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, 604-392-SHOW.