by Lynn on April 22, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r: Renellta Arluk, Tiffany Ayalik, Linnea Swan

At the Factory Theatre Mainspace. Written and directed by Christopher Morris. Designed by Gillian Gallow. Lighting by Michelle Ramsay. Sound by Lyon Smith. Starring: Reneltta Arluk, Tiffany Ayalik, Jonathan Fisher, Linnea Swan.

Presented by Factory Theatre and Human Cargo.

From the press release: “The lives of a Toronto anthropologist and a 16-year-old Inuk girl intersect powerfully during 24 hours of darkness in Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Daniella is a scientist from the big city; Piuyuq is an Inuit girl with big dreams. As the two cross paths, their lives are changed forever.”

Sometimes I think a press release tells the story of a play better than the play does. Night is a case in point. Daniella the anthropologist is just an incidental point to this story. The larger issues involve Piuyuq and her best friend Gloria, with Piuyuq giving Gloria support, love and affection which Gloria certainly doesn’t get at home. Piuyuq has to contend with a bitter, drunken father who blames his troubles on ‘white-man’ interference and never accepts the blame for anything. Daniella the anthropologist has come to Pond Inlet to return the bones of Piuyuq’s grandfather—they had been in a museum in Toronto. The museum received a mysterious request for the bones to be returned, and Daniella took it upon herself to do it.

Writer/director Christopher Morris is a passionate, accomplished man of the theatre. He has travelled far and wide to bring the harrowing stories of other cultures to Toronto and elsewhere. And while he attempts to do the same with life in Nunavut, going so far as to present Night in both English and Inuktitut with English surtitles, I must confess that I find his play to be so far-fetched and clumsily written as to be almost amateurish.

The story seems to unfold languidly until startling incident upon startling incident piles on quickly by the end leaving one breathless and confused. While the dialogue often is poetic and compelling, characters could use more fleshing out. At present too often they seem like caricatures. Daniella is no more a credible anthropologist than I’m the Queen of Romania. Daniella, as played by Linnea Swan, just seems silly and over-excited. However Gloria, as played by Reneltta Arluk and Piuyuq, as played by Tiffany Ayalik, are fierce in their convictions and so good in realizing their heartbreaking characters.

The production, on the other hand, works a treat in capturing the various aspects of life in Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Gillian Gallow’s stark, spare yet beautiful set creates the feeling of cold and isolation while Michelle Ramsay’s lighting makes us sense what 24 hours of oppressive darkness is like. The local radio station announces birthday wishes from friends, as well as warnings that a polar bear is terrorizing the village.

I’m always grateful to see a production by Human Cargo. And while I liked the production of Night very much, I wish the play was better in telling its story.

Night plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace until April 24, 2011.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Lynn April 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm

terrific. Thanks for commenting.