Power, greed, and destruction pave the way for an exploitative system. A dystopian future directly reflects current struggles in Fiya Bruxa’s Ayelen playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace as part of the 2015 Toronto SummerWorks Festival.
Ayelen (Ximena Huizi) struggles to survive mining blood crystals with her colleague El (Manuel Rodriguez Saenz). Their hard work feeds the all-powerful ruler Kemé (Marcelo Arroyo) who is supposed to grant them safe passage home. When Ayelen defies him, it is her daughter Trayenko (Lido Pimienta) who must bring justice to the world.
Playwright Gilda Monreal doesn’t mince words with her political commentary. Characters in Ayelen call out issues of sexual violence, political corruption, and capitalism with an admirable bluntness even as it uses song and movement to build a dynamic world onstage.
Thematically, both in content and visual presentation, there is a lot to unpack. There are rituals, bright colours, and an elaborate set (by Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky) that lend themselves to an elaborate narrative that is as much about what isn’t said as what is.
I wanted to spend more time in the world that was so painstakingly established, so I was surprised with the abrupt and jarring pace-change near the end of the play.
Part of the reason Monreal’s arguments land so well in the first half is because we are given time to see Ayelen and El interacting, to see how Kemé dominates from his throne. There is a very powerful scene involving sexual assault that gave the audience a moment to recognize what was happening. When an equally important event follows not long after, however, there is barely a chance for a line to land before we’re sent into a rushed conclusion.
I feel like Ayelen is a detailed sketch of a longer show. There are some great, powerful beats that stick with me but the play couldn’t quite balance the time needed for every significant detail.
- Thursday August 6th 7:30 PM
- Saturday August 8th 4:30 PM
- Sunday August 9th 10:00 PM
- Tuesday August 11th 5:15 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at summerworks.ca, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Photo of Ximena Huizi as Ayelen courtesy Fiya Bruxa