Opening on November 27th and running until December 1st, World AIDS Day, Rick Waines’ Secret/e is an intense and personal exploration of power, consent, violence, and truth that swirls around the nuanced issue of HIV criminalization.
Waines, a Victoria-based playwright, found out he was HIV positive in the mid-80s, and the play is based on his experience with HIV disclosure.
“In a sense, I’ve been trying to write [Secret/e] for 17 years. But it’s the last four or five where there’s actually been progress,” he says.
Billie (Jessica Lowry), sits in an interrogation room, having refused a rape kit after being attacked by her boyfriend.
An unmoved officer (Matthew Payne) presses Billie further, his own history unwinding as he attempts to unearth hers. Elsewhere, Guy (Kett Turtoni) questions himself, his past actions and their unknown consequences. Their stories are tightly intertwined, unfolding over the course of the play.
Billie is spit-in-your-face willful. Everything from her posture to her words to her facial expressions takes up space. The officer’s initially casual demeanour sluffs away as he and Billie butt heads, acutely aware of the power he holds over her.
Guy is often slinking, uncertain, occasionally loud and panicked. He poses questions with answers he’s not sure he wants to know.
Secret/e is directed by Waines’ long-time friend Sharon Bajer. Her training with Intimacy Directors International proves invaluable in the scenes between Guy and Billie, themselves feeling out this new, enigmatic relationship.
The play feels both fast and slow, flitting between decades while lingering on impassioned, existential conversations.
The set is minimalist: three chairs, a handful of small props, a backdrop with strategic cutouts, and projection used creatively throughout.
The actors use every inch of the space and overall, the production cashes in on all the resources that a black box theatre affords.
“I would just like [the conversation around HIV] to be a bit less straightforward for people,” says Waines. “As far as my goals, it’s really just muddying it up a bit.”
Secret/e is raw, emotional, and self-aware. There’s no moral to the story and no intended takeaway. It’s storytelling done right, in shades of grey rather than black and white. We give it a 4.5/5 rating.
A discussion with the audience follows every showing of Secret/e, and a counsellor is available post-show.
Make sure to get your tickets soon — Friday’s show has already sold out! 10% of gross ticket sales go to YouthCO.
- When: November 27th — December 1st
- Where: Intrepid Theatre, 1609 Blanshard St
- Admission: Tickets start at $10. Click here to purchase.