No Surprise Here: Dockery is Electric

Brianna McFarlane

It’s really no surprise why people love Martin Dockery. The man has an absolutely magnetic stage presence and even when he is just sitting on a stool delivering text, you are captivated. I first saw Dockery at last year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival when he was performing The Bike-Trip and, to this day, it remains one of my favourite Fringe shows ever. This year Dockery is back with The Surprise a piece that is very familiar in its style, yet the unforeseen emotional punch during the final moments of the show will leave you breathless.

The story starts with the pretext that Dockery’s parents have separated and his father has since moved off to Vietnam and started a new family. Never having been really close to his father, Dockery looks forward to potentially having a moment of connection when he takes his dad out to dinner in hopes of asking him about having children.  Instead what Dockery gets is an invitation to Vietnam and a journey in which he finds his unexpected answer. This is a great text that explores two types of disintegrating relationships- the ones that happen for very obvious reasons and the ones that just happen– yet it’s a text that ultimately shows the ability to move forward through acceptance of the past, as we see in Dockery’s father.

What more is there else to say about Martin Dockery as a performer, really? The man is enigmatic and possesses such a unique presence on stage. The variety in his vocal tones and the rhythms of his pace would be enough to keep you entertained for an hour, but that he adds the intricate movements of his arms, hands, and fingers is what makes it truly special.

There are two exceptionally strong moments in this play that really speak to the mastery of this performer. The first is the scene where he is playing with his two year old twin brother and sister and the imaginary dinosaur hand. The scene is hilarious in that the imitations that he does of the children and the actions he is recreating are accurate in their exaggeration, yet the scene is also touching because it is a clear display of his investment and treatment of children.

The second moment is compounded from two different parts of the play. First it is the segment where Dockery is taking a ridiculous amount of pictures of that one palm tree. At the time, you don’t realize how significant this moment is, though it does a great job of displaying the performer’s frenetic energy. Then when you get to the very end when Dockery is finally showing his girlfriend the pictures do you realize just how much he has slowed down his pace in order for every last syllable of that last line to wash over you.

It’s great to see Dockery return to the Ottawa Fringe year after year and I sincerely hope he returns for the 2015 Festival. His work is a breath of fresh air in this community and everyone from the industry artists to the every-so-often theatre goer can find something about it to appreciate.