By Megan Mooney
Three plays involving Africa grace the stage in Toronto during LuminaTO 2010
You know when something is hotly anticipated, and then you go see it, but you’re worried about how your expectations will affect your enjoyment of the show/movie/book? Well, I was a little worried about how I’d feel about The Africa Trilogy, playing as part of LuminaTO 2010 because I wanted it to be great. Luckily, it was great.
As the title suggests, the piece consists of three different plays, all of which involve Africa in one way or another. The caveat that goes along with that is that this is a long night of theatre. There were two 15 minute intermissions, and the whole night ran a little over three and a half hours. Before heading into the theatre I bought myself a The Africa Trilogy water bottle, because I figured I needed one, and I may as well support a theatre company while I’m at it, and I settled myself down in my seat with my water and prepared for a long night of theatre.
The three shows are, in order of appearance: Shine Your Eye; Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God; and GLO.
I found myself far more engaged with Shine Your Eye and Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God than I was with GLO. I think it was because I was able to make more immediate connections with the characters. There was something about GLO that was just a little to ‘fancy’ for me. It was a bit more esoteric and played with the structure a bit more, which, for me, made it harder to engage with.
There are lessons in each piece, things that made me question assumptions I had, and that I’ve seen others make. I lived in Zambia for two years when I was young, left when I was 9, which has given me a reasonably keen interest in Africa, but not any particularly major insights (especially since, well, I haven’t had any contact with Africa since the early 80s, and time is very bad at standing still). So, I really enjoyed the things I learned, as well has the things I was reminded of.
All three pieces were different, Shine Your Eye taking place in Nigeria, Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God taking place in some generic western city (I was assuming Toronto, but realises upon reflection that the city is never identified), and GLO taking place in Kenya and New York City. They were different in content, and in feel.
I enjoyed Shine Your Eye, mostly I think in a visual sense. There was some really great movement on stage, including some really enjoyable dancing. The story was engaging, the acting strong, but it really was the movement that stood out for me.
The one that has stuck with me the most is Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God. The show starts out funny as hell. Awkward, but funny. It ended with me being worried I would drown the folks on either side of me with my tears. At a point in the show Carol, played by Maev Beaty, breaks down crying. Beaty’s crying was raw and visceral, and I honestly don’t know how she does it every night. But as much, if not more, is conveyed in silence than is conveyed through the tears.
The action in this piece keeps stopping so we can hear the inner thoughts of the characters, then the actors ‘rewind’ to just before the inner monologue and begin again. At first I found it a bit distracting, it even annoyed me a bit, but I actually grew to quite like it. I didn’t mind being pulled out of the action and the flow of the piece. In fact, one of my favourite parts of the piece is when the actors come off the stage, into the audience, and tell us a story. It was almost like an intermission, but Trey Lyford’s delivery of the story was completely engaging and really lovely.
GLO was certainly still an interesting piece, and there were things I was drawn to in it. I really enjoyed the playing with expectations that happened. The playing with expectations wasn’t just the expectations the characters had of each other, but also the expectations that the audience had of characters. I also really loved having Maev Beaty and Trey Lyford playing such starkly different characters than they had played in the piece right before. I often see actors play very different characters in different plays, but I rarely get to see such a direct comparison, since it usually isn’t in the same night.
These shows are certainly worth the long time in the theatre. I feel like Toronto is really lucky to have The Africa Trilogy here, projects like this don’t happen nearly often enough because they take so much time and effort and money. I really recommend you check them out.
– The Africa Trilogy runs until June 20 at the Fleck Theatre (Harbourfront Centre, 207 Queen’s Quay West)
-Shows run every day except June 20 at 7pm and on June 19 & 20 at 1pm.
-Tickets are $30-45, and can be purchased online or at the door.
– Special ASL (American Sign Language) interpreted performances on June 11th at 7pm and June 19th at 1pm
-Photograph courtesy of LuminaTO