‘Assassinating Thomson’ will get you hooked on one of Canada’s most mysterious deaths

Assassinating Thomson was nothing like I had expected. Obviously, the title leads the audience in the direction of a murder mystery, which in a way it was. However, I find myself classifying this show as a mix of stand-up comedy, with a murder mystery undertone, but also an art class.

Not a combination that you would think would go together, like ice cream and french fries, but somehow it just works.

Bruce Horak, the show’s sole performer and creator, presents the correlations between his own life and the life of Canadian artist Tom Thomson and his mysterious death.

The story time travels between Horak’s life, Thomson’s life, and the lives of those who remain suspects in Thompson’s death.

The story is an emotional rollercoaster, griping at one moment and then humorous at another.

While taking in the performance, I found myself connecting the dots of their lives with my own. For example, when Thomson was roughly 29 he moved back to Toronto to work and it is said he received formal art instruction at the Ontario College of Art, something that completely changed the trajectory of his life.

At 29, Horak lost his father to cancer. A life-changing moment to say the least.

The night I saw this show was my 29th birthday. This was a coincidence I just could not ignore.

Horak’s self-proclaimed obsession with Thomson’s life is contagious, and I found myself desperate for more information as I returned home from the show and promptly typed Tom Thomson into the Google search bar.

Simultaneously while telling his story Horak, who is legally blind, painted a portrait of the audience, which he revealed at the end of the show and auctioned off. The funds from the art auctions during his run in Blyth will be donated to the Almost Famous Players in Wingham. The night of my attendance a gentleman sitting in the front row generously paid $400 to take home the painting.

A surprise ending that I think nobody saw coming.

Perhaps my favourite part of Horak’s story was the ending. Don’t worry I won’t spoil it other than to say it is what some might call a ‘full circle moment’.

And continuing on with the theme of drawing connections between Thomson’s life and Horak’s life, Horak’s connection to the Blyth Festival makes for a happy ending as well. But I will leave that story for Horak to share when you go see this show, which I highly recommend.

The Blyth Festival Theatre has show dates for Assassinating Thomson until Oct. 2. Tickets are available online at www.blythfestival.com.