Avenal Player’s Honour Killings is a modern tragic story of a family gone wrong. Where pride in the family name can override such things as love and kinship. Where three sisters and a first wife are drowned after dishonoring their family and bringing shame to the household. This is a story that takes a closer inspection at old, painful traditions, and a Canadian government and society that fails to come to their aid.
Admittedly, when I first read about Honour Killings, I was both intrigued and repelled. Intrigued because this show touches on severe and controversial subject matter and repelled because it may be difficult to watch. The intrigue won the better of me and I had to see it.
The original story written by Harvey Markowitz and subsequently re-written by Caroline Azar is about a family comprised of the son Hussein (Reza Sholeh), the father Ibrahim (David Occhipinti), the second wife Fatima (Shobha Hatte), the first wife Amnerisa (Carole Miles), eldest daughter Zeetab (Supinder Wraich), middle daughter Soussan (Mirra Kardonne) and youngest daughter Ganna (Lise Cormier).
An Islamic family living in Montreal and caught between two contrasting worlds. First wife Amnerisa is proud to live in Canada, yearns to become a citizen and to rid herself of the outcast life she has been given in the family, being a first wife unable to bear children. Having formerly worked for the UN, she has strong faith in equal rights and firmly believes that women can lead independent and professional lives.
The three daughters Zeetab, Soussan and Ganna are in high school and under the watchful eye of Amnerisa who encourages them to focus on school and apply to university to achieve a better life. A kind of life that their parents Ibrahim and Fatima won’t have, as good daughters are meant to obey, keep quiet and be married off. Their son Hussein, a reckless individual that despite numerous shoplifting and drug trafficking charges, is still the pride and job of Ibrahim and Fatima, is coerced into restoring honour back to the family by drowning Amnerisa and his sisters.
To say that the performance, which to me bears startling resemblance to the Shafia trial, is intense is an understatement. Anyone growing up as an immigrant, or who has parents who are immigrants, can understand what life is like living with conflicting world views. The North American modern world view encourages us to speak our minds and follow our dreams while the old world is rooted in tradition passed down through generations. Old habits die hard and often leave a young generation confused and rebellious.
You see it in the character of Ganna, a teenage girl whose views of womanhood and sexuality are so torn and blurred that she feels has no choice but to act out with her words and her body, often taunting and daring Hussein to retaliate on her.
This moving and tragic tale speaks to anyone caught between worlds and asks that both worlds old and new be reevaluated. A powerful addition to the Fringe line up that should not be missed.
- Honour Killings plays at Venue 8 Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George Street).
- Show times are: July 9 at 6:45 pm, July 10 at 12:45 pm, July 11 at 1:45 pm, July 14 at 8:45 pm, and July 15 at 1:45 pm.
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.