It’s a comic truism that cancer isn’t funny. Clearly nobody has told that to Cancer itself, brought to the stage by Bruce Horak in a performance that mixes dark humour, devastating power and absolutely singular strangeness.
As a grotesque embodiment of the Big C, the Toronto-based Horak, a survivor of childhood cancer, is part smarmy lounge singer, part scary clown, part warped motivational speaker. Mixing a killer-smart monologue with unsettling physical comedy, Horak’s Cancer starts out as a delusional egomaniac, bragging about his Google hits — almost twice as many as that "so-called No. 1 killer, heart disease."
Then he takes an informal poll and is gobsmacked to find out that everybody in the theatre hates him. Cancer’s attempts to win us over involve irresistible musical numbers and some endearingly unpredictable audience participation (including hilariously ingratiating efforts to get people to "friend" him on Facebook).
Horak’s work is audacious in its absurdist comedy. But it becomes equally unexpected in its tender, touching (dare we say it?) emotional uplift. The show starts in pitch-black darkness, but in a mysterious bit of theatrical alchemy, somehow lurches toward love, hope and light.
An evening with Cancer might not sound like a great ticket, but you need to go. Really.
— Alison Gillmor