30 People Watching by Toronto’s Subtle Vigilance, is a play about the murder of BC teen Reena Virk
Based on the 1997 murder of Reena Virk, 30 People Watching is based on the story of the South Asian teen who was brutally assaulted and killed in Victoria, BC by several youth including Kelly Ellard. By creating the characters Rita and Chelsea, the show focuses on the unheard voices of Virk and Ellard. The play imagines what Rita and Chelsea would have said in the past and present. It’s an intriguing concept however, I couldn’t always feel the emotions behind the characters and that left me feeling a little disconnected to the play.
I walked into the theatre with my plus one thinking that I would probably be in tears by the end of the 65-minute show. The topic of youth violence is always gut wrenching. This story in particular connects with me even more as it was based on the young life of a South Asian girl. Being of a South Asian decent, I remember how it felt to be excluded for being ‘different’ and how hard it can be to fit in as a teenager. So, I went into the theatre with the expectation that I would be taken on an emotional rollarcoaster. But I wasn’t. Now don’t get me wrong, there were some intense and beautiful moments in the show that got my attention but it wasn’t consistent.
The roles of Rita and Chelsea were performed well by Nisha Ahuja and Amelia Sargisson. They both committed to their roles with open hearts. It’s not an easy story to tell so I applaud them for their courage in telling it. Sargisson was captivating as she spoke to her therapist. She showed many layers of emotions in her sarcasm. Even though you want to hate her character Chelsea for the hideous crime she committed, Sargisson was able to garner some sympathy from me. And that’s impressive!
I found that the use of movement was a compelling way to express the various emotions though there were times I couldn’t figure out where the movement came from and what the intention behind it was. I feel a story like this needs simplicity in its text, use of props and movement. I connected more with the story when there was stillness; when the props were put to the side and the actors just spoke. On that note, the performers were able to juggle and manage the movements and the props well, it’s just that those elements didn’t always help me better connect to the story.
30 People Watching is a show dedicated to the life of Reena Virk. The messaging behind the story runs deep and any person watching would be able to connect to the despair brought on by bullying and youth violence. Though I felt a need to connect more to the play, 30 People Watching is an informative, eye-opening experience about young life taken too soon.
- 30 People Watching is playing at Daniels Spectrum, Aki Studio, 585 Dundas E.
- Previews Oct 25-26.
- Opens Oct 28 and runs to Nov 14, Tue-Sun 8 pm.
- Cost: $15-$25, previews $10-$15.
- You can order online or call 416 531 1402
Photo of Nisha Ahuja and Amelia Sargisson by Hamidah Hemani