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Bradley Charles: Timely TNW comedy tackles food theft

The play is enormous fun and, through all the laughter, it inspires an interesting conversation about the world we find ourselves in today.
The Shoplifters runs from February 16 to March 8.

Since my first reading of the script, two years ago, I’ve been a huge fan of Morris Panych’s The Shoplifters. The premise is simple: two security guards catch two shoplifters at a large grocery store. It has a dash of mystery, a pinch of suspense, and a huge, heaping scoop of humor.

A brilliant cast, led by director Kevin McKendrick, deliver exquisitely-timed jokes and physical and situational comedy that will surely satisfy you. The play is enormous fun and, through all the laughter, it inspires an interesting conversation about the world we find ourselves in today.

When we first assessed this play as an option for our current season, it made sense. It’s a comedy, which is what we need nowadays. But it’s also about shoplifting food. We found the deeper social commentary particularly relevant to our community in Prince George, especially since it had just been announced that a major grocery store would be leaving our downtown. That departure would potentially cause many folks living in the area to have a very hard time getting their food. Little did we know, then, that this play would become even more relevant for more people.  

Recently, it's been impossible to escape the skyrocketing of prices of basic food items. Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a photo of a carton of eggs, margarine, and a bottle of orange juice, with a caption saying that those three items cost him $28. It’s bewildering and worrisome.

When supply chain issues caused product shortages and oil prices to shoot up, we understood. However, now that supply chains are running smoothly again, we’re left without a reasonable cause for the rising prices. To add insult to injury, we get to watch corporations connected to our groceries report record-breaking profits each quarter. It’s hard to stomach while we pay double what we did two years ago for a jug of milk.

Now, I know this isn’t news, but if people don’t eat food they die. I’m not talking about the absence of luxury items, but the most basic necessities for life. Even though it’s theoretically possible for people to grow their own food, the overwhelming majority of us don’t have that ability. We live on what’s available at a nearby grocery store.

So what choices do we really have? At what point is it the government’s responsibility to step in and regulate price gouging? Is the solution to simply look the other way when we see someone opting for the five-finger discount? Personally, if I see someone stealing food, I’m more than happy to look the other way. Obviously, where each of us draws the line is based on our personal convictions and life experiences. What do you think is right? Come see the play – then let’s talk about it!

The Shoplifters opened at Theatre NorthWest on Feb. 16 and will run until March 8. Get your tickets at Studio 2880 or online at

Bradley Charles is an artistic associate at Theatre NorthWest.