As we entered the theatre, the women were asked to sit on the left and the men were directed to sit on the right. The reason for this, we were told early on, is that the 14 seats on the left are representative of the 14 women who were killed in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre (also referred to as the Montreal massacre) on 6th December 1989. It was an event that is thought of as one of Canada's darkest days, now known as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. By complete coincidence, I happened to take a Canadian friend with me to see this show. This gave me a particularly useful and interesting insight into The Anorak, and she told me that every year on 6th December, Canadian schools and universities remember what happened.

Adam Kelly's controversial piece is a 90 minute monologue from the perspective of the shooter, Marc Lépine. I have been reliably informed that the accent was well sustained and mostly accurate, though a number of the French words were apparently mispronounced. To me it was certainly distinctive enough from a typical French accent and, even if it wasn't perfect, it was consistent and sustained throughout the performance.

A one-man show for 90 minutes is no small feat. There is nowhere to hide, no support from other cast members. Felix Brunger gave a highly engaging performance – I was kept interested for the vast majority of the show by the story and performance of it. Perhaps it was nerves that made him stutter over his lines every so often, and it was a shame that he did, because these snapped me out of the world of Marc Lépine's mind and reminded me I was in a theatre. 

Every so often, Brunger would write something down on the set, which was painted with blackboard paint to allow things to be written in chalk on it. Occasionally a word was written, or a series of numbers, a name. There did not appear to be a pattern to these things, though I tried to connect their meaning or the level of significance in the story. By the end, the stage was covered in fragments of Lépine’s mind, written at different angles, in different sizes, fractured across the set. It felt hugely symbolic of the play's trajectory, towards the climax of the story where he would take us through the shooting. The set was made up of a cluster of blocks of different heights, and there was one that was tall, as if it was a tower rising up from the rest. There is a description of the tower at the Ecole Polytechnique in the script – as if the set represents the university campus, the shape and structure of it looming behind Felix Brunger as a backdrop to his story and a constant reminder of where he is taking us, lest we feel too sorry for him.

Adam Kelly started writing the piece at a young age between school and university. He worked on it for a number of years before performing it, and for a long time was the only performer of the piece. Kelly found he shared similar childhood experiences with Marc Lépine, which partly explains why watching it is so compelling. The story felt believable – although it was at times sad, it did not feel melodramatic or stereotypically tragic, because of the character that has been developed. Everything was delivered in a clinical, matter of fact manner. The emotion expressed the most was anger, which occured in sudden outbursts that made me jump! In all honesty, it's hard to decide which experiences might have been Lépine's and which might have been Kelly's. Brunger addresses the majority of the piece to the larger block of audience, where the men are supposed to sit. There are more than 14 women in the audience, so some have obviously sat on this side as well. But it is only when he is close to the end, taking us through the shooting, that he addresses the women sitting in the 14 chairs. 

Matthew Gould (Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, Tumbledown) has navigated the difficulties of this character with expert direction. The staging, little lighting touches (they dim when we are taken further back in his memory and are harsher and bright when we are in the lead-up to the shooting again) and the use of the space is all a testament to his experience and talent as a director. Overall this is an impressively engaging piece of theatre, a dark and controversial insight into the mind of a killer. It is absolutely worth seeing, but not for the faint hearted.

The Anorak, at Lion and Unicorn TheatreAbi Symons reviews The Anorak at The Lion & Unicorn.4