“Didn’t Hurt” is a poignant collection of performer Rodney Decroo’s life stories, detailing his experiences with abuse and mental illness. Decroo has been to hell and back countless times. He takes us through his childhood, where he was surrounded by the notion that, as a man, displaying emotion makes you weak, and that being weak means the world will swallow you whole. He was also receiving mixed messages he got from his father regarding how to make him proud. These perceived truths, along with the violence that he suffered, led him down a self-destructive path. But he has lived to tell the tale, and it is a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful one.
A lot of the earlier moments are pretty uncomfortable, but the payoff comes later, and we realize that all those layers of exposition are necessary for an understanding of the depths Decroo is trying to crawl out of, and how his sense of self has been so intertwined with his experiences of abuse and violence that he hasn’t always been sure that he could be a whole person without them. Hearing about his road to recovery wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t know all that he is recovering from.
Fair warning: much of “Didn’t Hurt” is difficult to hear, both in content and in slurs that sting despite the knowledge that Decroo is speaking as another character, or as his childhood self too young to know any better. But if it hurts to hear, it hurt more to live it. He made it through his story and so can we.
After all that pain, it is a relief to finally hear him speak of finding healing both in likely and unlikely places. But even though it may seem like the hard part is over, there are still moments where despite his best efforts, he is powerless to the manifestations of his complex PTSD. Recovery isn’t perfect, it takes time and it takes constant effort – which Decroo commits to. I personally really appreciate relating to his account of rolling his eyes at uninspired healing practices, but giving them a try anyway, and being pleasantly surprised when they actually kind sort of help.
Decroo is an intense performer. His storytelling is tinted with all the sadness and wisdom accumulated through the years. I think a lifetime of hardships usually has one of two outcomes: either it leaves you with an ability for empathy and compassion higher than most, or it hardens you beyond repair. “Didn’t Hurt” unveils a third possibility: being hardened at first, but not “beyond repair”, just temporarily. And then later finding that peace we’re all holding out for, and a kindness of heart informed by all the pain we’ve known. Rodney Decroo is the opposite of a bad person, that much is crystal clear to the audience, and it is unfortunate to know that he himself isn’t entirely convinced of that truth. But it seems like he believes it more and more each day, and I hope he will keep walking this road he is on.
“Didn’t Hurt” is not for the faint of heart. It is not a nice story about nice people who do nice things, but there is for sure someone out there – many people actually – who are going through something similar and need to hear it. I hope they somehow find their way into the theatre and leave at the end of the show with a will to keep trying, and a renewed belief in the fact that it is never too late.
Tonic Records presents “Didn’t Hurt“
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 6 – 16, 2019
Venue: 07 – Théâtre Impro Montréal
3697 Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2X 2V7
Admission: $12 | Ages 16+
Check out all our other 70+ reviews
from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!
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