Review: by Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight
By Patrick Keating. Directed by Stephen Malloy. Presented in association with Neworld Theatre, Main Street Theatre and Urban Crawl. At Little Mountain Gallery on April 2. Continues until April 12
Patrick Keating's Inside/Out: A Prison Memoir delivers evocative insights into life in the slammer
It’s been a long time since Patrick Keating took his first theatre class as an inmate at Matsqui Institution, but that experience paved the way for this intimate, accomplished solo show, a memoir of Keating’s years of incarceration.
Keating describes himself as a shy, skinny kid growing up in Montreal’s East End who took his first toke at the age of 12 and quickly progressed to harder drugs. “Look at you, using needles when you’re not even a teenager,” an older friend in the scene dopily enthuses. His drug use slides into activities that quickly put him on the wrong side of the law.
Keating doesn’t share a lot of details about the crimes that landed him in prison, and any sense of introspection is only hinted at. “It was my choice,” he tells us of his first stint: at a sentencing hearing, the teenaged Keating rejects the idea of rehab, and finds himself with a three-year sentence. “I thought maybe I hadn’t picked the right door,” is all he says of that decision.
a delicately observed and thoroughly engaging collection of stories about life inside
What he does offer is a delicately observed and thoroughly engaging collection of stories about life inside; his prison career lasted, he relates, “10 years, more or less, in and out, mostly in”.
Keating’s descriptions are honed and evocative. When he first spends the night in juvenile detention, “the atmosphere adds 10 pounds to each shoulder” and his bunk smells of “mothballs, stale sweat, and athlete’s feet”. His understated delivery and crack timing make many of his stories darkly funny. His incredulous account of the differences between minimum and maximum security prisons ends with a weary, “When people treat you like a regular person? Fuck, it wears you down.”
Director Stephen Malloy makes a virtue of simplicity in Little Mountain Gallery’s intimate space
Director Stephen Malloy makes a virtue of simplicity in Little Mountain Gallery’s intimate space. Complementing Keating’s spare, straightforward delivery is the nearly naked set by Barbara Clayden, Kate De Lorme’s effectively minimalist sound design, and Itai Erdal’s emotionally nuanced lighting.
In his program notes, Keating informs us that the educational opportunities that helped him to finally turn his life around are not available to inmates today. Given our government’s simple-minded and destructive “tough-on-crime” stance, this play is a vivid and necessary reminder that people in prison are, first and foremost, human beings.
Review: by Jo Ledingham, On the Scene
At Little Mountain Gallery (26th & Main) until April 12, 2015
1-800-838-3006/brownpapertickets.com or at the door. Cash only
Patrick Keating may be the only ex-con who refused to leave when he was due for release. Why? He’d been cast in Ubu Roi inside Matsqui Correctional Institution where he was serving time for the armed robbery of a TD bank and he didn’t want to let the rest of the cast down. When pressed by the prison officials, he replied that one of the things he’d learned in jail was to “take responsibility”. “This”, he told them, “is me bein’ responsible.”
He stayed, the show went on and he left Matsqui Correctional when he was ready. Bitten by the theatre bug, he enrolled as a student at Studio 58.
Keating has gone on to become an actor with a long list of credentials including TV (Stargate, Smallville and The X-Files) and stage (A Lie of the Mind, Cold Comfort, Glengarry Glen Ross and Penelope, amongst a long list of other critically acclaimed shows).
Inside/Out is not a ‘poor me’ piece of theatre nor does it glamourize prison life
Presented by Neworld Theatre, Main Street Theatre and Urban Crawl, Inside/Out is a very candid memoir of a little more than a decade in Keating’s life. A “shy little boy”, according to his teachers, by the age of twelve he had used “grass, hash and acid” and was soon addicted to heroin. By sixteen, he was picked up by the cops for possession of stolen property – taking the rap for a friend who would have been tried as an adult. That was the beginning of Keating’s period of on-again/off-again imprisonment. Inside/Out is not a ‘poor me’ piece of theatre nor does it glamourize prison life.
Everything that happened to him, Keating tells us, was a result of choices he made, some really regrettable, including a remark he made to the judge who was about to sentence him. The offer on the table was incarceration or rehabilitation. “I don’t need rehab”, said Keating too quickly. Slam.
Keating has come out of this particular closet, supported by friends, fellow theatre artists and UBC’s Stephen Malloy who dramaturged and directed Inside/Out. In his program notes Keating particularly acknowledges “the Main Street boys” (Main Street Theatre company) who said if he wrote it, they’d fundraise and produce it. That was the deal and they kept it.
Inside/Out has an inclusive, friendly, ‘between us’ feel about it; we could be sitting in a pub with him
A solo show on a simple set (Barbara Clayden) with minimal but effective lighting (Itai Erdal), Inside/Out has an inclusive, friendly, ‘between us’ feel about it; we could be sitting in a pub with him. Despite how open he makes himself on stage in this tiny, funky venue, he remains, at sixty, a somewhat shy man with a wry sense of humour. Raised in Quebec, he retains the speech rhythms of an anglophone raised in La Belle Province; the final ‘g’ is consistently dropped and there’s something akin to an Irish lilt there as well. He’s very listenable over the eighty-minute, uninterrupted running time.
Peppering his work with self-deprecating humour, Keating makes completely comprehensible the lure of being “inside”. There is “a simplicity”, he says, in prison. Emotions – with the exception of anger – are kept completely under wraps. Of the outside, he says, “F**k, it wears you down when people treat you like a regular person.” And ironically, when he was released several times over the years, no one remembered him or was waiting for him. When he got picked up again, he was royally welcomed back by all the cons. These were his people and they were his community.
Writing and performing Inside/Out is one of the best choices Keating ever made.
Keating has another community now and he’s made a new life in the theatre. If there’s a message here – and it’s not hammered home, quite the contrary – it’s that we are responsible for the choices we make. Writing and performing Inside/Out is one of the best choices Keating ever made.
Review: by Paul Durras, BCbooklook and vancouverplays
The artful dodger goes straight
When we learn something new, we get pleasure pings in the brain.
we get pleasure pings in the brain [and] there are plenty of pings per minute
Performed with only a cardboard box and two benches, Inside/Out by ex-con-turned-professional-actor Patrick Keating certainly qualifies as a minimalist one-man show—it’s an intimate 80-minute encounter in a funky, small venue—but it succeeds as theatre beyond personality because it invites us to learn a great deal, in a short period, about a very different world.
There are plenty of pings per minute as we learn the details of what it’s like to survive in various Canadian prisons for long enough that it becomes extremely uncomfortable for an incarcerated person to accept both kindness and freedom.
With a well-honed script, Keating wisely eschews a ‘woe is me’ narrative in favour of non-dramatized tidbits, anecdotes and observations about his fellow inmates, institutional procedures and survival techniques inside the joint. There are lots of amusing recollections, but few lines are laugh-out-loud funny. Similarly, there are a few alarming revelations, but nothing horrific or jaw-droppingly cruel.
his approach to drama is very Canadian in a classic Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are?
Keating’s story and his presentation, from the get-go, convince us that he’s nothing special. He is speaking from the perspective of a typical prisoner. One could make an argument that his approach to drama is very Canadian in a classic Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are? kind of way. Inside/Out is a pleasing experience largely because Keating is a moderator for reality, not an exploiter of it.
He never raises his voice. He never hopes for, or expects, sympathy. His self-contained and calm demeanor encourages the audience to literally lean towards him. In this way, Keating’s deliberate reserve gives Inside/Out its own peculiar style. Because he does not go out of his way to focus attention on himself, his plight, his feelings, it’s more like we we’re watching someone through a one-way mirror, the way cops spy on people when they are being interrogated.
this comfortable voyeurism—watching one man in a theatrical cell of self-confinement—is further enhanced by the smart choices made by the director (and dramaturge) Stephen Malloy
This comfortable voyeurism—watching one man in a theatrical cell of self-confinement—is further enhanced by the smart choices made by the director (and dramaturge) Stephen Malloy. With the audience split into two opposing sections, just like Pacific Theatre, it’s impossible for an actor to cater to one side of the audience without alienating the other, so Keating spends much of his time addressing the walls of East and West while the audience watches from North and South.
The audience relaxes. We don’t have the uncomfortable feeling that we are only seeing half of a play. Instead we are more like someone sitting in a jury. We are watching the show on the sidelines, like at a football game. We drop the expectation that a one-man show is supposed to engage us face-to-face. We watch. We listen. We learn.
Near the outset of his monologue Keating describes how he learned to avoid being selected to answer questions in the classroom from his teachers. In essence, he taught himself to keep a low profile. This chameleon technique was further developed in prison where everyone must build and protect their own privacy turf in order to avoid confrontations and trouble.
Keating—the artful dodger—has an unusual charm as an actor because he has worked at the art of being anti-flamboyant
Actors are supposed to draw attention to themselves, to heighten and galvanize emotional situations; whereas Keating—the artful dodger—has an unusual charm as an actor because he has worked at the art of being anti-flamboyant. Inside/Out, as a result, makes for a strangely original evening. Inside/Out is a carefully non-emotional show. With its restraint, there is dignity.
Criminal behavior is too frequently glorified in our culture by Hollywood gangster movies, just for starters. Much to its credit, Inside/Out does not romanticize criminality in any way. It is mostly about survival behaviour. We are not pulling for Keating to escape from prison—because, after all, we can see for ourselves that he eventually ‘got out’. Instead we are simply learning what it takes to endure and cling to one’s sanity.
This production benefits from satisfying lighting design from the dependable Itai Erdal and intelligent sound design from Kate De Lorme. The script was brought to fruition over years rather than months, so Stephen Malloy and the theatre community can take some of the credit for a smart script that could serve any solo actor, not just Keating.
Mainly incarcerated back east, Keating got himself transferred to B.C. where he was able to participate in a production of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi in Matsqui Prison, part of a venerable rehabilitation program that was kickstarted by Leon Pownall who directed an unforgettable behind-bars production of Threepenny Opera in the late 1970s.
Matsqui’s theatre program was the key that Keating needed to escape from crime and punishment
Matsqui’s theatre program was the key that Keating needed to escape from crime and punishment, landing to roles in X-Files and Da Vinci’s Inquest, etc. During his monologue Keating lets us know that the Matsqui Prison theatre program has been curtailed as a frill by the Harper government. (Nonetheless we still have an unusually tolerant society that enables an ex-convict to receive grants from both Canada Council and BC Arts Council as a neophyte playwright.)
The ending still needs work, but that’s a quibble. More problematic is the fact that we are told next-to-nothing about how the heck Keating got into the labyrinth; at age 60, he’s tight-lipped (in the play) about his crimes and convictions. We are led to assume he attempted some bank robberies, but his criminal record is a mystery. It’s not clear how long he was in prison, how old he was when he left prison in his wake, and who supported him when he got out.
This could be a prudent approach. We have to like or at least respect Keating in order to accept him as a guide through the chilling and often ludicrous underworld of the Canadian penal system. But once we leave the theatre, it dawns on us the playwright might not have been telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
If you have a stake in the heart and soul of Vancouver's theatre community, don't miss Patrick's show
Theatre is supposedly about "storytelling." To be honest, I'm not one to fully believe in that presumption, or definition as it were. That said, Inside/Out is about a story. It's also about a story that deserves to be told. And it's told by a storyteller that deserves to be listened to. Patrick Keating has been quietly fuelling this city's independent theatre scene with substance, rigour and honesty. If you have a stake in the heart and soul of Vancouver's theatre community, don't miss Patrick's show. Added to the mix is that he [is] presented by Main Street and Neworld. That's street cred to the 3rd degree. This is the last week. Note….the show's time is at 7:30.
Previews and Associated Press:
Actor Patrick Keating shares real-life prison experience in one-man show
Ian Bailey, The Globe and Mail
Actor shares prison experience in solo performance
Interview with Patrick Keating, CBC
Inside/Out is Patrick Keating’s real-life experiences in and out of the Canadian penitentiary system
Patrick is so honest and engaging, it's impossible not to be caught up in this story about a search for community: the community of the street, the community of prison, and the community of theatre
Podcast: Patrick Keating discusses his new stage show, which he wrote and stars in: Inside/Out: A Prison Memoir, running at the Little Mountain Gallery, 02-12 April 2015; he and Joseph Planta discuss writing a show like this, its impetus, and his time incarcerated