AN AUDIENCE OF CHAIRS: 3 ½ STARS. “woman’s pursuit of compassion and connection.”
Based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Joan Clark, “An Audience of Chairs” is the story of a manic depressive woman’s pursuit of compassion and connection.
When we first meet Maura Mackenzie (Carolina Bartczak) she’s eyeing a career as a concert pianist. With an upcoming audition for an American tour she and daughters Bonnie (Grace Keeping) and Brianna (Lauren Patten) head to their Newfoundland summer home for some rest and relaxation. Just as they arrive Maura’s journalist husband Duncan (Chris Jacot) calls with some bad news. On assignment in Russia, he’s decided to stay for the rest of the summer to follow a lead.
Faced with missing her audition and feeling her career aspirations taking a backseat to his, she falls into a depression. She sleeps through the day as her young children look after and feed themselves. Worse, on a day trip Maura, in a manic state, leaves the girls unattended, open to danger.
Duncan returns after the incident and relocating the kids to Scotland. Diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, followed by a full-scale breakdown and a suicide attempt, Maura is alone as her mental health deteriorates. At her lowest moment she meets good-natured truck driver Ben (Gord Rand) who becomes her boyfriend.
Jump ahead twenty years. The children are grown, strangers to Maura who hasn’t seen them in decades. When it is announced that Bonnie will be married in the local church, Maura hopes for forgiveness and reconciliation.
“An Audience of Chairs” does not pull any punches in its examination of Maura’s struggle with mental illness. Bartczak never slips into caricature or loses sights of the character’s humanity. The story dips into some very bleak territory but the lead performance reminds us that Maura is more than her mental illness; that she is a person of depth and resilience. She’s a strong character at the centre of an important story.