Theatregoers and cannibalistic journalists will have a chance to catch a glimpse of former Globe and Mail columnist David Macfarlane’s new journocentric play this weekend. Fishwrap, about a washed-up newspaper columnist, is being workshopped publicly at Tarragon Theatre on Saturday at 8 pm as part of the admirableWorkSpace program put into place there by newish artistic director Richard Rose.
Gossipy scribes — ourselves included — have been salivating for this show since we first read about it last year. A press release in March described it thusly:
One minute you’re at the top of your game. The next you can’t get 500 words on bathroom fixtures in the Real Estate section.
There is no lonelier soul than a freelance writer who discovers, belatedly, that he is no longer wanted by the magazines and the newspapers by which he has eked out his living. Angry, funny and cruelly accurate, the play asks the question: how can a man make sense of a life that has never been anything more than yesterday’s paper?
It’s interesting to track the evolution of the play through subsequent press releases.
The next one gave us the name of the protagonist and further details clearly lifted from the life of Macfarlane, whose pretentious columns in the Globe Review section always had to mention the holy trinity of his wife, wine, and opera:
In Fishwrap we meet Kingsley Fitzhenry – a man who always had pretension beyond newspaper and magazine writing, but who, nonetheless, earned his living on Grub Street. He has come to the offices of a newspaper for which he used to write with some regularity in order to pitch an idea for a column, but because nobody really wants to see him, he has been shunted down to a junior editor. He is humiliated by this treatment, but too desperate for work to let it deter him. What unfolds is less a pitch than an avalache of caustic autobiography. Angry, funny, bitter – and cruelly accurate in its portrayal of the lower rungs of print journalism – Fishwrap asks the question: how can a man make sense of a life that has never been anything more than yesterday’s paper?
Now for the latest press release (not online) check out the shift in focus as Macfarlane begins serious work with a dramaturge who seems to be wanting him to make the show more depressing and, apparently, more relevant to the post-9/11 world:
Nothing is forever. Not life. Not love. And certainly not work. In an age of insecurity, few have a more tenuous hold on employment than the freelance newspaper writer. Fewer still have bigger egos. But when the axe falls, even the proudest old hack and the most deluded columnist are obliged to confront what all of us must someday face: no matter how important we believe ourselves to be, there will come a time when there is no space for us anymore.
In Fishwrap, comedy and anger, defiance and lonely bewilderment are woven together in a monologue that continually bursts beyond the confines of a single character. Stuck together in a single room, a blocked writer and his crusty, verbose persona mourn the loss of the only thing that gave their job meaning: an audience. Now, they have nobody to ran to anymore. Except themselves.
Jeez… Sorry, Macfarlane. Now, we feel bad for having ever made fun of you. Repeatedly. And spat our Cheerios at your column. Anytime you want to write for Torontoist, just drop us a line.