Review: BLOOD + SOIL

by Lynn on April 28, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer







At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

Written and directed by Rouvan Silogix

Original Score by Ivana Popovic

Projection design by Curtis te Brinke

Lighting by Waleed Ansari

Cast: Joella Crichton

Steph Crothers

Kayla Farris

Morgan Johnson

Lauren Maykut

Adriana Moraes-Mendoza

Alix Parra

Sepehr Reybod

Jerry Schaefer

Amaka Umeh

Alexandra Watt Simpson


The Story. A small town in Quebec is going through hard economic times. One of its citizens named Napoleon has just been laid off and he’s furious at the man who gave him the bad news. Napoleon and his wife Snowball talk to their neighbours and they decide to create a movement for the town to secede from Canada and create a Utopian world where all people are equal; elections will be fair and above board; they will be self-sufficient etc. They re-name the town “Tanganyika”.

In short order everything spirals out of control. The power hungry, (read ‘Napoleon’) ignores democratic rule. He goes behind Snowball’s back to gain more power. There are secret meetings to decide the course of government. There are power struggles; revolution, battles, bloodshed.  This narrative segues into references to the rise of Nazism, the KKK and the FLQ crisis in Quebec.

The Production.

The audience files into the theatre past three performers on stage riffing off each other and then the audience, challenging people in their seats with prophesies that will happen to them in the future. Mostly the dialogue among the three (two are listed as “The Gospels) is mainly incomprehensible gibberish. There is a threat of audience participation, but the involvement is rather tame, mainly the three pointing at someone in the audience and saying something sarcastic to them.

Director-Playwright Rouvan Silogix has a few interesting scenes when the townsfolk meet to plan their better futures and conversation is respectful and calm. I’m particularly impressed with the subtle insertion into the narrative of the de rigor (self-serving) land acknowledgment of the various peoples who lived on the land for thousands of years, with whom we share the land. That insertion is the only subtle thing about this over-directed, noisy, distracting, incomprehensible production and ‘play’.

Ivana Popov has written a score and presumably plays it on her violin etc. to augment the production. In any other place and time the music is lovely. In this production it’s intrusive, insistent and distracting noise. Additional music is a cheat if the ‘play’ can’t create its own tension. To add to the distraction there is a screen above the stage on which are projected filmed segments, again, presumably to enhance the text. For example, in a speech about revolution or battle etc. there on the screen is a lion ripping at a dead chicken or other hunk of meat and chomping it down. Talk about laying on the symbolism with a trowel.

Along with projections of swastikas on the screen or people in KKK head coverings on stage etc. there is a scene from Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage (noted incorrectly on the screen as “The God of Carnage”) in which two pairs of parents meet to talk about a fight their sons had and one son had his teen knocked out. It’s easy to see the boys get their belligerence from their parents. What a bland example to make a point, It’s as if Silogix didn’t know what to leave out of his ‘play’ so he dumped everything in it.

At the end Snowball comes forward and references the peoples in the land acknowledgement who were overpowered on their land by invaders as well as several other peoples around the world who were also slaughtered. She says with anger that no amount of land acknowledgements will make up for the blood spilled in the soil.

Comment. Blood + Soil is not a “Surrealist Parable” as described in the programme. It’s a pretentious polemic. It’s not a play. It’s a bunch of political posturing sound-bites.  It’s not acting. It’s bellowing. It’s not directing.  It’s keeping the large cast moving up and down the stairs and on the stage to suggest something meaningful is happening when all it is is moving traffic for no reason. There is nothing original, perceptive or creative in Blood + Soil that hasn’t been said 1000 times before and better. Anyone who has glanced at a newspaper or had a passing familiarity with history is aware of all this horror over the years. Yes history repeats itself. Does one really need a polemical rant passing as a play to tell us that?

Who is this show for? Is playwright-director Rouvan Silogix condemning his audience as the cause of these horrors in history? In his jargon filled director’s note in the program, Silgoix makes some pretty naïve comments, for example: “I don’t believe that anyone is born a racist/sexist/homophobe at birth—these things are taught and ingrained through our society’s power structures.” Really? Like we didn’t know that in forever? Rodgers and Hammerstein did a nice job of saying that in “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”, South Pacific, 1949.

First rule of theatre: Don’t bore your audience. Second rule of theatre: Don’t insult your audience.  Bloor + Soil does both.

Theatre Artaud presents:

Began:  April 25, 2019.

Closes: May 5, 2019.

Running Time: 89 life-shortening minutes long.

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