Review: The Election

by Lynn on October 18, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, Ont

Written by Natasha Greenblatt and Yolanda Bonnell

With the company.

Directed by Jennifer Brewin

Set by Anahita Dehbonehie

Lighting by Kaitlin Hickey

Costumes by Jackie Chau

Composed by Alex Samaras

Cast: Augusto Bitter

Rachel Cairns

Joelle Peters

Anand Rajaram

Rose Stella

Courtenay Stevens

The “Election” in  question is the 2015 Canadian election. Writers Natasha Greenblatt and Yolanda Bonnell and their company have created a production with disparate characters, each with her/his own stories.

Zoe (Rachel Cairns) is a field worker who is being sent to the North to work for the party up there. She had been working in Toronto (can one assume that? Perhaps not, but a major city, and now she is being sent to the northern part of the province). Jake and others (Courtenay Stevens) is Zoe’s boss and we learn later, her lover. This certainly complicates things.  Skye, Menakshi and others (Joelle Peters) are Indigenous women who live in the North. Menakshi does not want to vote. She feels that is a white man’s endeavor that does not help Indigenous people. She is adamant about that. Milly, Abinisha and others (Rose Stella) tries to convince Menakshi to change her mind. Samraj (Anand Rajaram) is a party worker of Sri Lankan decent from India who has issues about his ethnicity. He has tried to distance himself from it—he calls himself “Sam” and not “Samraj. We see him ponder this and work to change his mind. Terry and others (Augusto Bitter) is an intense party worker who is gay and has to fight for his place in the world as well as with the people with whom he comes in contact when he goes door to door.

The company also play “Land voices” in that they verbalize the sounds of nature, door bells, phones ringing etc. It gives another layer to this production.

It’s interesting that the parties these characters work for are not front and centre. Each is invested in their work. What is important is the conviction of each character’s work and trying to get their party elected without actually naming the party. I thought that was interesting.

We see the hurly burly of political campaigning, the ups, downs, the animosity a worker meets at the door of an irate citizen. At one point Terry yells to the person at the door that he has been scared because he’s gay while the citizen reveals the same thing. It’s quite moving. There are many moving moments in this show packed with emotion, anxiety, elation, despair etc. My problem with this show is that while it might be true to life of a political campaign with its many and various characters and scenarios, it’s not necessarily good theatre. Theatre is life lived on purpose so having all these stories, some of which work and some just bog things down, just looks like an unwieldy blob in great need of cutting and focusing. Characters are not well defined and with actors playing several characters with little change in costume etc. keeping track of who is whom is a challenge.

Jennifer Brewin’s production moves the group around the space well and each scene flows quickly. This quickness also adds to the confusion.  I do wonder though if the people in the balcony looking down on the action can actually see it all. It doesn’t seem so. Many people scattered out of that section after intermission and much of the balcony became empty. I wonder if Brewin watched the show from up there?

This is a huge endeavor. Theatre Passe Muraille, Common Boots Theatre, Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Direct all collaborated on this show. It presents the messy world of an election campaign in all it’s many variations. I just wish it was better, focused theatre.

Theatre Passe Muraille presents a Common Boots Theatre production in association with Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Direct. 

Opened: Oct. 12, 2019.

Closes: Oct. 27, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours approx..

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