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Review: ‘HER2’ has world premiere in Toronto (Includes first-hand account)

Faced with an aggressive form of breast cancer, a group of women are recruited for a clinical drug trial. Each one has been chosen for this experiment as a last resort, all with varying symptoms and degrees of prognosis and diagnosis. Although the story premise may seem like heavy subject matter for a night of theatre, the influx of humour and character development works well in telling a story that many may have already experienced themselves or with a loved one.

The story also takes on the controversial and debated topic of science and medicine versus compassion and naturopathy, in terms of treatment and healing options. While the doctor works with figures and formulas trying to distant herself from her patients as much as possible, her intern recognizes the positive aspects of human bonding the women are forming. As each is given a dose of the test “miracle” drug, the women build a relationship between themselves with only one thing in common – the “C” word. They also all share the same goal to not be “discontinued”.

With a cast of powerful actors this production captivates the audience right from the start, and despite the medical terminology used throughout, it’s a real enough scenario to follow along. HER2 is an acronym for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. The scant set design adds to the bleakness of the clinical faculties one must face when dealing with such fate. Each year nearly 25,000 Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and 5,000 will die from it. This show gives an inside look at what these women go through, with true insight from playwright Ardal who was diagnosed and spent a lengthy time in treatment sessions working toward recovery.

There are a few post-show conversations scheduled during the production run, which are free to attend after each of the Saturday matinees on January 17th (It Takes a Village: The Immeasurable Impact of Community on Immunity) and 31st (Sexuality, Self-image and Survival: Young Women and Breast Cancer). As well, there’s an accompany photography exhibit on display at the theatre called The Oracle, featuring the work of Carol Mark from Feminist Art Conference.

HER2 is now playing until February 1, 2015 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street in Toronto. Tickets are available in person at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre box office, by calling 416-975-8555 or online. Performance Times – Tuesday – Saturday at 8:00pm, Saturday & Sunday at 2:00pm, with special PWYC performance on January 20.


As Canada’s National Women’s Theatre since 1979, Nightwood has launched the careers of many of the leading theatre artists in the country. Now heading into their 35th season, they remain actively engaged in mentoring young women and promoting women’s place on the local, national and international stage.

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