by Lynn on April 2, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre. Written and directed by Ed Roy. Set and lighting by Andy Moro. Costumes by Angela Thomas. Sound by Lyon Smith. Starring: Soo Garay, Owais Lightwala, Shaun McComb and Sarena Parmar.
Presented by Topological Theatre in association with the Theatre Centre.

Lost Voices tells the stories of two teenagers traveling alone from their native countries to a safe haven in Canada. Nabeela, from Mumbai, has been sold by her brutal father to an equally brutal man, who will sell her to someone else. Wakeed, from Afghanistan, has been sent to Canada by his parents to escape the Taliban.

While these two teens are the main ‘lost voices’ of the play, there are also the ‘lost voices’ of the two harried social workers trying to help by cutting through all the frustrating red tape. Terry, the dedicated senior social worker, has to deal with her own secrets about why she wants to help; and Phil is the ‘rich kid’ junior social worker who is doing the job to honour his mother as well as trying to prove himself to Terry.

In his play Ed Roy also shines a light on insensitive immigration officers; a system stretched to the limit in trying to communicate and place these unaccompanied minors; language barriers, multi-ethnic differences, and massacres in war-torn Bosnia.

There might be ‘eight million stories in the naked city’ but they all don’t have to be crammed into one play. And that’s one of the problems with Lost Voices.

Lost Voices is noble in intent, earnest in tone and absolutely deadly in general. For all of Ed Roy’s efforts to explore the troubling situation of unaccompanied minors, the results are flat, the pace glacial. The dialogue is either clichéd or banal. Moreover it’s a tricky proposition when the playwright also directs his work. Who will tell the playwright to cut or clarify? Who will tell the director to simplify?

The cast are very committed to the work. As Wakeed, newcomer Owais Lightwala is impressive in his acting and body language. As Nabeela, Sarena Parmar conveys the fragility of a frightened teen and the steely resolve needed to survive; as Phil, Shaun McComb, nicely communicates the character’s awkwardness and eventual ease in the job, and lastly as Terry, Soo Garay pulses with frustration but is tenacious for her clients.

I can appreciate the honourable intention in illuminate these problems, but the results are unfortunate.

Lost Voices opened at the Theatre Centre on April 1 and plays until April 17

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