Assassinating Thomson

A Relaxed Outdoor Theatre Experience

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

First, a word about Blyth’s Harvest Stage: An open-air theatre, it is nestled in the back corner of the Blyth Fairgrounds, and the able-bodied walk down gravel pathways to the stage.  (Not to worry, it is accessible to all.)  There is plenty of fresh air and trees and sky.  People are separated into their groups, with plenty of space in between, and masks are required.  Umbrellas hang from some of the chairs, a thoughtful touch. The tiers that hold the audience are made of cement, there is shade overhead, and a grassy strip separates the audience from the stage area.  A pleasant sloped wall of green grass protects the entire area from behind. Insects buzz and chirp in the background but don’t pester attendees.

I was lucky enough to attend on opening night, so it was warm, there was no wind, and the sky was semi-clear and blue but gradually became dimmer and the moon brighter.  As I left the theatre, a beautiful reddish sky greeted me and guided me back to the parking lot.  Each night (or day) will be unique and it is wise to be prepared.  The previous night’s scheduled performance was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions.

With all of that in mind, this was Bruce Horak’s first time on this stage, with a stretched-out, sparse audience in the open air.  At this new challenge, he began cautiously, drawing in the dispersed energy, but he quickly found his stride. From an artistic family, Horak was born to be a performer. He is an actor, artist, musician, and writer. He is a pro, and he adjusted quickly to his new surroundings.

Assassinating Thomson is Horak’s creation, and it has a personal element.  He draws connections between himself and Tom Thomson, an artist who some call the eighth member of the Group of Seven, Horak says.  He offers many different theories about Thomson’s untimely death.  Added in are threads of his personal life and family, as well as lessons in avoiding “verbal mode” while creating art.

Horak does all this while painting the audience as he sees it.  Oh, and he has only nine percent of his vision.  It is easy to forget that fact at times, all too easy to complain to oneself about eyeglasses or sunglasses fogging due to the facemask.  Horak doesn’t appear to be blind and confesses that he used to hide the fact when he was younger.

The pacing is easy, the atmosphere very relaxed. It is a one-way conversation, intimate and captivating.  He uses gentle humour, even blind humour, but there is no need to feel pity.  His accomplishments are right there on stage, despite his challenges.

Once his tale concludes, he shows us his creation, then it is auctioned off, and the proceeds will go to Almost Famous Players.  The painting is displayed and audience members are encouraged to photograph it.  If you cover an eye and squint, you may even see yourself in the splotches.

This performance is worth a trip to Blyth.  Fortunately, many of the upcoming shows begin at 4:00 PM.  Darkness will not be an issue and it may be warmer than the 7:00 PM start time.  Assassinating Thomson, despite the title, is inspirational, and it’s fun to be part of the original artwork that Horak produces.

Assassinating Thomson continues at the Blyth Festival until October 2.  Tickets are available at 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to

Photo: Bruce Horak, photo by Terry Manzo. Horak’s painting, photo by Vicki Stokes.

Assassinating Thomson
Performed and Created by Bruce Horak
Originally Directed by Ryan Gladstone
Harvest Stage, Blyth Festival, Blyth
September 15 to October 2, 2021
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes


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2 thoughts on “Assassinating Thomson”

  1. Hi Mary,

    Think we must have been there the night you were…Sept/15th. Too bad we didn’t see you.
    We really enjoyed the show and the experience.
    Hope all is well with you, Victor and your family as it is with us. Miss you in Grand Bend.

    Lynda and Ron Holmes

  2. Lynda & Ron — Thanks, we miss Grand Bend, but unfortunately, you didn’t see us in Blyth. My friend and colleague, Vicki Stokes, is now reviewing shows in that part of Ontario, and she was in Blyth that night.
    We are busy here going to shows in and around Port Hope, enjoying theatre east of Toronto.

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