I, Claudia

by Yule Heibel on January 4, 2005

Several nights ago, we rented I, Claudia, a marvel of a film based on (and starring) Kristen Thomson’s one-woman play of the same name. The film was directed by Chris Abraham, and Thomson plays all the major parts with the help of masks that cover half the actor’s face:

As a result, the work had an intense and sometimes scary intimacy to it, one strengthened by Thomson’s remarkable facility for writing in (and impersonating) various voices. Thankfully, the filmmakers have retained this quality while devising some unique additions, such as a series of animated films made by the janitor – an Eastern-European immigrant who was once a successful filmmaker – which play like mini-parodies of Jan Svankmajer’s work. [More…]

There’s a bit of a synopsis here, and much more here:

Thomson wears four different masks (part of a set of 26 masks created by British designer Abdul Kader Farrah and used at the National Theatre School to help actors develop their characterization skills) to play four different figures: Claudia, a sensitive, lonely 12-year-old “official pre-teen” whose parents are going through a divorce; her grandfather Douglas; her father’s new girlfriend Leslie; and Drachman, a school custodian whose basement becomes Claudia’s secret refuge. “It was really important to me that the parents not be in the play,” Thomson says, “that Claudia’s point of view would not be mitigated. One of the main things I wanted was for Claudia’s perspective to have credibility—it wouldn’t necessarily be the final word, but we wouldn’t try to lessen the intensity of her experience by understanding what her parents are going through. It felt to me that that’s the place kids are always relegated to in divorce situations, as secondary players. But they aren’t secondary players! They’re primary players in the separation of the family. And with adults, divorce may be painful, but it’s something they choose. With kids, their lives and their place in the world gets fundamentally changed and they have no say in it. So the play is not just the story of a family; it’s the story of the birth of an individual. This girl finds herself in her first confrontation with that crisis, that loss of innocence.” Critics have put Claudia in the same pantheon of classic young female characters as Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird or Frankie from The Member of the Wedding—and it’s only when you read those reviews that you realize how infrequently you see stories about girls that age onstage. “And it’s a phenomenal age!” Thomson says. “It encapsulates a really important time of life. The characters have this tremendous na


maria January 5, 2005 at 1:17 am

Thanks for this heads-up, Yule. Seems to me this a must for me, considering some of my current up-in-the-air projects.

Yule Heibel January 5, 2005 at 1:30 am

Let me know if you manage to get a hold of it in California/ the US, and if you see it, what you thought of it!

Marja-Leena Rathje January 5, 2005 at 6:02 pm

I absolutely loved it when I saw it last fall on CBC’s Opening Night. I think one day I’ll revisit it on DVD for those extras.

Yule Heibel January 6, 2005 at 12:30 am

I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of my not having tv, Marja-Leena! I don’t get to see all the great stuff CBC puts on…. (Glad you agree that it’s a “must-see”!)

Kate S. January 8, 2005 at 3:23 pm

She looks awfully familiar… I’ll keep an eye out for the dvd in my local two stores. Ha. That sounds kind of dismal already.

Yule Heibel January 10, 2005 at 8:38 pm

It’s a Canadian release, Kate, and probably not so easy to dig up outside (this) country. But let me know if you do get to see it!

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