“With a story that engages important issues like citizenship, identity, colonialism and war, Interrogation is an ambitious, thoughtful production”.
Karri Yano, grand niece of a man who became known as “The Kamloops Kid”, was given a last-minute spot in the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival 2015. I am honoured that she asked me to co-write it, and humbled that she insisted I direct it.
INTERROGATION: Lives and Trials of the Kamloops Kid is indeed based on the same true story of Kanao Inouye that inspired my play Father Hero Traitor Son (2013). But Karri’s concept for Interrogation is an entirely different approach to this complex, emotional, and controversial piece of history, which also happens to be her family’s story.
Coming to Toronto’s Factory Theatre Main Stage, July 1-12, 2015.
Toronto’s Ravi Jain is at home in the theatre, and with A Brimful of Asha, at Soulpepper till Saturday during its national tour, he and his mom, Asha, make everyone feel at home, greeting each audience member with a fresh samosa and a “Thank you for coming!” Are they getting into character or just being themselves? “I’m not an actor,” begins Asha. What they present, with more reality than The Bachelor, is “not a play” but “a dispute” over the attempt to arrange Ravi’s marriage.
Asha and Ravi give contrasting perspectives on what happened when Ravi, at age 27, went to his parents’ homeland India to give an acting workshop in 2007 and they decided to come along to find him a bride. On each side of the generational and cultural divide, the question seems so clear cut whether it is for the parents to choose when and to whom their child will be married. But there are points to be made on both sides. As Apu says on the Simpsons, “Mother, come on, you know that 1 in 25 arranged marriages ends in divorce.”
Asha wears a vibrant fuchsia sari; her son wears a traditional Indian shirt with jeans and sneakers. No costume designer is credited, as the two are surely wearing their own clothes. The simple, homey set is a dining table and two chairs on a rug-covered platform, framed by a curtain in the centre of which is a wide-screen monitor where Jain periodically refers to family photos, maps, and video clips (set designer, Julie Fox; lighting and video designer, Beth Kates).
Ravi Jain is the director of this show he created with his mother primarily through improvisation, and he is an experienced, thoroughly trained actor and award-winning director (2012 Pauline McGibbon Award; founding artistic director of Why Not Theatre; an artist in residence at Soulpepper Theatre Company; inaugural artistic director in residence at The Theatre Centre), but while it is sometimes evident that Ravi is stepping in to keep a scene on track, it is untrained Asha, a self-described “dedicated housewife and abused mother”, who steals scene after scene. This is the role Asha was born to play.
Although the duo has performed this show many times in many cities since its premiere at Tarragon in 2012, it does not feel over-rehearsed, in fact it feels perpetually spontaneous, and it probably is a little different every night. The show is primarily humorous but with an undercurrent of tension always ready to pull you in. There is little by way of overt action and the simple production looks easy, an occasionally heated conversation as mother and son sit at the table drinking tea, but the story they tell is a rollercoaster ride, a contentious and intimate conversation to which they welcome us as witnesses. Asha very much seems to be enjoying being herself, and yet the two of them are going over a lot of emotionally charged memories and it must be a taxing experience to relive such painful and personal conflict in front of a packed audience night after night.
As early as age five, Ravi regularly entertained the “extended family” that was his community by mimicking India’s legendary film actor Amitabh Bachchan. Asha teases that, by pursuing a life in the theatre, Ravi is not allowing himself to move on from the first of life’s four stages, establishing a “real” profession, onto the next stage of finding a wife. The debate is real, but so is the love. At least in the context of the Jain family, the intent of arranged marriage is not to dictate but to ensure a secure and happy future for the child. Fittingly, the name Asha means “hope”.
Next time someone asks if you prefer red or white, say, “How about green?” If you had to choose between wine and the environment… But what if you didn’t? Oenophiles and tree huggers, unite and raise a glass to sustainability! A carbon neutral wine is now available in Ontario and British Columbia. Santa Margherita’s Pinot Grigio is not only Carbonzero Certified, but also for every 750ml bottle sold from April 1st to 26th, 50 cents will be donated to Tree Canada in support of creating sustainable forests across Canada.
Ideally, environmentally and ethically, everything we buy would be sustainably produced down the road at eco-friendly outfits by well-paid workers who loved their jobs. But most things we buy come with an ecological cost. I happen to like Italian wines (and Spanish, French, Chilean, Argentine…), so while I enjoy a number of wines produced in nearby Niagara and though I am conscious of the environmental expense of transporting wine and other products across the ocean and the continent, I sometimes want—okay, often want a wine from some excellent but distant wine producer.
In the past, I’ve had wines marketed as eco-friendly, with names like “Happy Frog” or whatever, some of which taste like what their names imply. But Santa Margherita’s Pinot Grigio (apparently the top selling Italian wine in Canada) I will drink again.
Okay, so I like the wine, but what is its environmental status? At Canada Blooms (on at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, until March 23rd), I spoke with the instigators of this initiative. Federico Trost, Santa Margherita’s sommelier and export manager, spoke of his company’s sustainable production practices “from grape to shelf.” They not only control the growth of the grapes, they even make their own bottles. When I asked Carbonzero CEO Dan Fraleigh how Santa Margherita earned carbon neutral status for their Pinot, he praised Santa Margherita’s ongoing initiatives, which include emissions reductions and renewable energy production (for details, see http://www.carbonzero.ca/news) and then described three of the projects undertaken with the carbon offsets the winery purchased to make a difference beyond their own efforts and be certified carbon neutral: projects with Bison Transport in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, turning landfill emissions into fuel in Niagara, and repurposing methane emissions in Quebec. He said these aren’t the “excuse to pollute” variety of carbon offsets; they are “buying offsets that wouldn’t otherwise have existed.”
Michael Rosen, president of Tree Canada, which plants 600,000 trees a year, told me the cost, from germination to planting, is $4 per tree. Less than the cost of a glass of house wine, but still an expense. Fortunately, on top of the 50 cents for each bottle sold, Santa Margherita will donate another 50 cents every time you use the hashtag #sm_pinotgrigio. So, give a tweet, and if you want to enjoy a wine with no fossil fuel aftertaste, go to an LCBO or BC Liquor store (by foot, bicycle, public transit, or carpool) and stock up for Earth Day with Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, the one with the plantable basil-seed tag around the neck (750ml LCBO $17.95; BC Liquor $19.99 ). Sustainable wine? I’ll drink to that!
If David Suzuki and Tim Flannery collaborated with Cirque de Soleil and the Fifth Estate, they might come up with something like Theatre Gargantua’s new drama The Sacrifice Zone. Toronto’s Theatre Gargantua is a hearty theatrical feast—contemporary, multi-disciplinary, multi-media. In collaboration with Aussie/Brit playwright and human rights lawyer Suzie Miller, they have developed a challenging show which examines how much people might sacrifice for justice, their families, their jobs, and other sometimes conflicting priorities.
The story—which seamlessly incorporates mystery, social commentary, and philosophical dialogue—is conveyed through a collage of dialogue, movement, acrobatic dance and image projection. It’s not one of those things you watch and whisper to your companion “We could totally do that”.
Read my full review at http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/November-2013/Theatre-Review-The-Sacrifice-Zone/
Take a look at what I’ve seen so far this month:
The most intensely Canadian play you are likely to see, Yukonstyle is not sentimental or didactic; it is a deep gaze into the soul of Canada. And it’s not just for Canadians. It’s being staged this year not only in Montreal and Toronto, but also in Paris, Brussels, Innsbruck and Heidelberg. Packed with Canadian context but devoid of cliché, Yukonstyle would be compelling fiction, yet much of the content is taken from too-soon-forgotten news reports and too-readily-dismissed police investigations. Over the past two decades, 600 native women in Canada have disappeared or been murdered.
On a cold Yukon night, with the gruesome details of the Robert Pickton trial unfolding on television, a rebellious and entitled white anglo teenage girl hitchhikes into the lives of a Japanese immigrant and her roommate who is tormented by questions about his native mother who disappeared from Vancouver when he was two.
English language premiere runs until October 27th.
Based on the 1870 erotic novel Venus in Furs by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from whose name is derived the word “masochist”, David Ives’ 2010 play Venus in Fur is a sex-charged gender politics comedy bridging the 19th and 21st centuries. It’s like Oleanna meets Pygmalion meets Dan Savage meets bell hooks. Closing October 27th.
Read my full review at http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/October-2013/Theatre-Review-Venus-In-Fur/
Daniel MacIvor’s latest play continues at Tarragon Theatre until October 27th. When a couple of very different brothers learn their mother has died, they have to find a way to deal with each other, and her dog. You can tell it’s a comedy because the death comes at the beginning rather than at the end.
Read my full review at http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/October-2013/Theatre-Review-The-Best-Brothers/
Les Misérables! Again? Isn’t that so 25 years ago? And yet, themes from Victor Hugo’s epic story — the Law versus the People, the 99 per cent versus the powers that be — continue to be reflected in the news. Do you see a parallel between the barricade in Les Mis and the G20 barricade? Do you hear the people sing, “Idle No More?” Even if not, the music keeps the audience coming back. Canada’s Iranian-born Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean is worth the price of admission.
This gritty new rendition of the world’s longest-running musical, with physicality in the performances evoking, more than previous productions, the brutality of the epoch and the story, has no gigantic Lazy Susan rotating the set and actors, which was a pivotal feature of the previous productions. Now the performers are the spectacle.