“I Christopher“ opens on a stage full of boxes, a fitting metaphor for a play about someone trapped by their circumstances. Claudio Tamburri plays the titular Christopher, a 28 year-old recent graduate from Concordia who is struggling to hold down a job. We meet him at a warehouse where he is promptly fired for not being as quick as the other workers. Christopher protests: he’s on the autism spectrum and has learning disabilities, he’s working harder than everyone else, he’s never late and always reliable. But still he’s cruelly dismissed, in what will become a familiar pattern over the course of the play.
Written by Tamburri and based on his own experiences, I Christopher is a powerful examination of ableism as it manifests in the workplace. Christopher is a film studies major who can’t find any kind of work, let alone fulfilling work in his field. As we follow him through various jobs, we see the toxic ways in which he is discriminated against. Venting his frustrations to the crowd, Christopher lambasts the terrible working conditions at the warehouse as well as the bigotry of the company and the union. The play thus points out the ways that ableism and capitalism intertwine – Christopher lives at the intersection of being low-income and differently abled, making it that much harder to find not just a job, but a community.
Even in an era where class consciousness seems to be on the rise, it’s still exceedingly rare to see art that deals with the day to day exhaustion of trying to pay rent – and even more unusual for that story to be told from the perspective of someone with a disability. By the time we reach Christopher’s third job – this time at a restaurant – there are obvious similarities in the work environments and the ways they treat him. He even points this out to us, joking that this new boss sounds a lot like the boss from the warehouse. You’re probably thinking that this is too repetitive, Christopher says to the audience, that it would make a boring plot for a movie. But, on the contrary, that’s why it’s such an impactful story – the repetition drives home the fact that these are systemic problems. It’s not about one bigoted boss, it’s about a society that is built to exclude people like Christopher.
In a way, I Christopher’s plot might sound simple – a guy tries to find work – but Tamburri’s writing demonstrates just how dramatic and dehumanizing that task can be. The show becomes Christopher’s outlet, his means of expressing pain and anger. Tamburri is quite funny and incredibly impassioned as Christopher, who talks to the audience like we’re his friends. Indeed, Tamburri’s performance is so winning that, eventually, we are. And though the show is all from one person’s perspective, Tamburri handles nuance well – the circumstances of how Christopher gets fired from his second job constitute a particularly complex and heart-wrenching look at workplace harassment.
The entire show is captivating, ramping up to a riveting climax – all in just thirty minutes. But, like the similarly affecting Everything Is Fine, this is a story that has no easy ending. Well, it could – we could watch Christopher get the job of his dreams and become a famous film director. Or it could end in tragedy. But instead, Tamburri finds an innovative conclusion that puts Christopher’s story in a different light, so to speak. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s proof of Tamburri’s skill as a playwright and performer. I Christopher is the work of a talent on the rise – I can’t wait to see what Tamburri does next.
“WHO IT’S FOR”
Anyone interested in an examination of ableism and the modern workplace or anyone looking for a short, jam-packed one-man drama.
Quietus Productions presents “I Christopher”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 6 – 16, 2019
Venue: 03 – Le P’tit Impro
3713 Saint-Laurent #202, Montréal, H2X 2V7
Admission: $7 – 10 | Ages 13+
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from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!