Theatre Preview: Andy Curtis: Librarian Bounty Hunter

By Simon Mallett

Almost everyone who has had a library card has, at some point, been fined for overdue books. Return a book a week late and you discover how quickly fines can add up. So what about a book returned one hundred and thirteen years late?

“My character’s line is ‘I’m going to hit him with the fine of his life,’” says Andy Curtis, the lone performer in One Yellow Rabbit’s latest show, Underneath the Lintel.

In Glen Berger’s play, Curtis is a bland Dutch librarian who makes it his personal mission to find out who slipped a book into the evening deposit box more than a century late.

“The book is scrawled with writing and strange inscriptions in all kinds of different languages, all written by the same writer,” explains Curtis.

These inscriptions and clues lead his character on a worldwide search, and a 73 year old receipt for an unclaimed pair of trousers at a Chinese laundromat in the book is another clue the librarian calls upon during his detective mission. But through the course of his journey it becomes far more than simply collecting on a large fine.

“It frames larger questions and issues in his life,” Curtis says, “such as ‘what mark do we leave?’ and ‘how do we live a quality life?’ He becomes a different human being by the end of his travels.”

The play comes to Calgary after a successful and award-winning Canadian premiere at Edmonton’s Shadow Theatre last year.

“We thought, this is a piece to continue, it should have a further life,” says Curtis about the remounting of the production in Calgary. Given his membership as part of the One Yellow Rabbit ensemble, Curtis is glad the theatre company he considers home will be housing the production. He explains when director James DeFelice first read the script, “It haunted him. He heard my voice in his head as being right for the part.”

Curtis also had a strong initial reaction to the script. “I thought, this is a beautiful piece of work, it touched me.”

And based on the reception in Edmonton, the play had a similar effect on audiences. Curtis recalls a group of elderly audience members reacting positively to the play.

“The one they called ‘Junior’ was 84. At the end of the show, they all struggled to get a grip on their walkers and then gave me a standing ovation,” chuckles the actor.

Six months after the premiere in Edmonton, a story appeared in the Herald reporting a book had been returned to the Calgary Public Library ninety-four years after its due date. “It had a neat two-page story written by the person who returned it,” Curtis says, proving that something as simple as an overdue library book really can have a fascinating past. Just be glad you don’t have to pay the fine.

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