by Lucy Allen
“Why do good people rush to do evil?”
Michael Redhill seeks to answer this question in the newest incarnation of Volcano Theatre‘s Goodness, which opened last night at The Theatre Centre. Although the question is never truly answered, the intense journey and look into humanity’s complicated and bloody morality is one that will leave you questioning your own views.
Goodness follows Redhill, played by Gord Rand, as he journeys to Poland in the hopes of filling in the gaps of the story of his family who were victims of the Holocost. Instead he meets Althea, played in her older version by Lily Francks and in her younger version by Tara Hughes, who grudgingly reveals her own story centering around another genocide.
Right from the beginning, the audience is slowly drawn into the author’s world. As the lights dimmed, voices began to hum out from within the audience, haunting and full of hope all at the same time.
Redhill takes a slightly more meta-theatrical approach to his story, stating at the beginning that he is being played by an actor and acknowledges the presence of an audience watching a play. It is a clever decision and one that helps the audience to understand the play’s initially narrow view of the world.
The tone continues with characters inserting themselves into flashback scenes, complaining about their roles, or even placing themselves in the audience. Part of me was waiting for the chaotic jumping back and forth to confuse me, but somehow the perfect balance is kept and the work is seemless.
With only the bare bones of a set to work with and providing their own soundscape, the cast perform admirably as the myriad of characters visited through the story. Their energy and intensity was a marvel to watch, culminating in a tense climatic scene that I didn’t even want to blink for. With such great ensemble acting, I couldn’t choose a single favourite.
The music itself is almost its own character, weaving in and out of the show. It adds beautifully to the story, and the use of multiple styles and languages was a thing of wonder. Hopefully music director Brenna MacCrimmon has given herself several pats on the back for that accomplishment.
Most details about the genocide are kept ambiguous, which is one of the best things the play has going for it. The country itself is never named, the actors used do not adhere to any particular ethnic background, and the music is a mix of styles ranging from Eastern Europe to South Africa. I’ve seen many shows focusing on the same theme that often get bogged down in the political and cultural details of a country’s history and I end up trying to make sense of facts rather than focusing on the emotional core of the story.
By stripping away the details, Redhill allows the audience into his story and challenges them to question their own morality. And question you will. By the end of Goodness, there is still no clear answer to the questions the author asks throughout the show.
If anything, Goodness will leave you dissatisfied with the lack of conclusion, but that of course is the author’s intention. The theme of genocide is not a new one, but the intimate and unique approach Goodness takes will definately get your attention and hold it. If you want a moving piece of theatre, go see it (insert your own “for goodness sakes” joke if you like).
–Goodness is playing at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen Street West) until September 27.
-Shows run Tues-Sat at 7:30pm, with Sat and Sun matinees at 2:30pm.
-Tickets are $20 for Tues-Thurs & Sun matinees, $25 Fri & Sat, and PWYC Sat matinee. Seniors/Student tickets can be bought for $20.
-Tickets can be bought online or by calling 416-538-0988.
Photo by John Lauener