A quiet rant: It’s 2020. How about 2020 vision to go with it.

by Lynn on February 26, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

It’s 2020 and it’s time theatre producers and Artistic Directors had 2020 vision to go with it.

Bette Davis said:  “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” She could also have been talking about the theatre. It takes guts and focus to produce daring, challenging theatre. Some Artistic Directors are doing a splendid job of it but there are three shows that need to be seen and aren’t and that should be addressed:

Trident Moon by Anusree Roy.

Anusree Roy is a South Asian-Canadian and writes vividly about that world set in India. Through her plays we have been taken into the world of the “untouchables” in Pyaasa, life in a brothel in India in Brothel #9, life as a street urchin in Sultans of the Street, and separation in Letters to My Grandma and seen how those worlds inform our own. 

But Anusree Roy has also written a bracing, hard-hitting play entitled Trident Moon. It’s about the partition of India and Pakistan. It takes place in 1947 in the back of a truck as it crosses the border. Three Hindu women abduct three Muslim women. The toll in human history, experience and life is in the back of that truck.

I saw a workshop of it a few years ago. It’s gripping and vital. It’s had a production in London, England a few years ago. It’s had a reading at the Stratford Festival last year. It’s been nominated for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.  And yet producers and Artistic Directors in Toronto are hesitant to produce it because they fear protests. Mind-numbing.

This city is not a stranger to difficult work that has caused protest. There was a reading a few years ago of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children and people protested outside the theatre objecting to the play. They hadn’t read it or seen it but they were protesting. Mind-numbing. 

Before that the mighty Maja Ardal, then the interim Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre, did a reading of Behzti (Dishonour) by British-Sikh playwright, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. That took guts because this was the play that was programmed by the Birmingham Rep Company but was cancelled in previews because the protests about it were so violent. Again the protesters had not seen or read the play. The reading here happened without incident. There is a precedent for doing tough plays here. Trident Moon is one of them. I want to see it here!

Five @ Fifty by Brad Fraser.

It’s about five women friends, all fifty years old, celebrating the birthday of one of them. It’s also an intervention as one of them is an alcoholic and her lesbian partner is an enabler. The play had its premier at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester in 2011. It’s cast is for actresses of a ‘certain age’. I enquired a few years ago of Nightwood doing it and was told that since it was written by a man and Nightwood was a feminist theatre, producing it was not possible. But recently Nightwood produced Every Day She Rose that was written by Andrea Scott and Nick Green. Has the policy changed? Would Nightwood reconsider? It would also fit Buddies In Bad Times mandate. What’s the problem? Are we not doing the plays by middle-aged white men anymore? We’re going on to the next generation of writers? We wouldn’t have the next generation of writers if they weren’t standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before. .

Five @ Fifty is perfect for Buddies or Nightwood or anyone else—Brad Fraser is one of our leading playwrights. There are five meaty parts for actresses of a certain age that would jump at the chance. It’s time, Toronto, to do this play here.

After the Orchard by Jason Sherman. It’s a reworking of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard set in Ontario and focuses on a family cottage that must be sold, but the family is divided. I saw it at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2005. It’s got brains, heart and an unexpected sweetness. There used to be a time when plays only got one production. That is certainly changing with many shows now getting subsequent productions. I would like After the Orchard to be one of them.

Doing theatre takes guts. It’s not for sissies. I want to see Anusree Roy’s Trident Moon, Brad Fraser’s Five @ Fifty and Jason Sherman’s After the Orchard in a theatre in my city, sooner rather than later.  We have gutsy producers and artistic directors here. Step up to the plate please.

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