Someone is tied up in a basement in a remote Northern Ontario locale, and the 17-year-old gay boy who’s dropped in for a visit doesn’t know it yet. He’s seeking refuge from his abusive parents at his uncle Francis’s place. At first nothing seems amiss, but the strange sounds emanating from the oddly-out-of-place baby monitor are suspicious — is somebody in pain?
The tied-up man is paying Francis to keep him there. At the play’s outset, the two matter-of-factly agree on what will happen, reciting the activities with a banality usually reserved for shopping lists — two litres of whipping, a basket of chains, two bushels of vengeful ball slaps — and in slightly silly northern accents that make it clear this is not a play about murder, but a comedy about BDSM.
Brandon Crone began writing Nature of the Beast in 2008. “There was stuff I wanted to see on the stage and just wasn’t seeing,” he says. “So, I put it together and now the play is having its world premiere and it’s scary to me because it covers such personal stuff.”
Crone is from north of Toronto, but the play isn’t autobiographical. It’s personal to him in the sense that it involves some of his kinks and kink-related concerns.
“Coming from a smaller town, I’ve had a rough journey coming to terms with who I am,” he says. “I’ve had difficulty asking people to take control of me.” Among other things, the play explores the idea of sexual power exchange. Is it safe? Should it be kept private?
In addition to more kink on stage, Crone wanted to create a less Toronto-centric play. “I’m interested in representing the voices of people that I grew up with, who weren’t always that articulate,” he says. “And to show them dealing with scary things, like sexuality.”
So, the characters make no eloquent arguments. The audience is instead presented with a bold, unusual and humorous situation, and they’re allowed to read into it if they like and conjure up their own epiphanies.
Meanwhile, Francis needs to keep his unexpected visitor from finding out what’s up. If he doesn’t succeed, how will learning about the sub in the basement impact a vulnerable young man, only recently out of the closet?