I was intrigued by the description of Toronto-based multi-disciplinary theatre company Human Cargo’s approach to the creative process. They aim to “transform their life experiences into theatrical language” through a “cross cultural exchange and professional mentorship.” With this process, Human Cargo aims to “expose and discuss” social and political issues. My attention was peaked, so I set off to the National Arts Centre to see Human Cargo’s latest work, Night.
According to playwright and director Christopher Morris, Night was created by a collective of 17 individuals over three work shops — a process that took 6 years. It’s worth noting that despite a clearly collaborative approach, it is Morris who receives top billing as the writer of the play. Responsibility for the script in its final form, therefore, resides with him.
Night tells the story of a Torontonian museum worker Daniella (Linnea Swan) who at the request of an individual in a Northern community has taken it upon herself to return something of value to that community. Her effort is an attempt to reconcile a historical crime, but her naivety results in a series of culture shocks. Some of these are humorous (like her surprise at the price of a grill cheese sandwich in the far north), others result in revelations that call into question her entire project and, by extension, the reconciliation efforts of well intentioned, but equally naive, Southerners in general.
There are some strong performances in the piece. Michelle Montieth gives a subtle and understated performance as Gloria, which has a lasting impact on the audience. It’s a difficult part to play, and I was very impressed by her performance. Similarly 16 year-old Abbie Ootova’s (Piuyuq) final monologue, a defiant call to action, resonates long after the show is finished. Mike Bernier is challenged with playing five separate characters, some of which are very good — the Mayor, Piuyuq’s father, and the Candyman. Unfortunately, on opening night, his portrayals of an RCMP officer and a teenager fell flat.
The script feels very much like the product of many hands over several years and Morris, as playwright, ultimately fails to give it cohesion. Many scenes feel tacked on haphazardly (possibly the product of previous incarnations), and this results in a jarring experience for the audience… (For the full review at (Cult)ure Magazine click here)