Kitne Saare Laloo Yahan Pey Hain (The KSLYPH Collective) 2020 Next Stage Festival Review

Photo of Bilal Baig by Tanja Tiziana for the show Kitne Saare Laloo Yahan Pey Hain

Kitne Saare Laloo Yahan Pey Hain, having garnered great interest in a shorter form during Soulpepper’s collection Welcome To My Underworld last spring, is a wild journey into a difficult and gripping story that emerges, slowly, under pressure. While still shaking out a few last hiccups, the show has an undeniable theatrical power.

Creater and performer Bilal Baig has been more behind the scenes than in the spotlight in Toronto theatre the last few years, penning tremendous work for Buddies and WhyNot and directing projects as well. Here, Baig takes the stage in a story about a Bangladeshi trans woman who escapes to Canada with a bag, her memories, and about one million gallons of determination to remake the story of her life. As the piece unfolds, questions about truth and facts, memory and history, identity and experience unpack themselves and spill onto the stage at Baig’s high-heeled feet.

The technical prowess Baig has in creating a narrative really shines in Kitne Saare Laloo Yahan Pey Hain, and that contributes to the emotional knockout of the show. Even despite running long and some vexing issues with the sound cues, I found myself engaged (and moderately anxious) the entire time.

In laying out the story, Baig manages a decoupage effect that adds layer upon layer to our understanding of the character’s experience and engages us deep in the feelings place. This included multiple requests for help from the audience that I, having tucked myself in a back corner as is my habit for audience-participation shows when I’m reviewing, found myself urgently wanting to respond to. Because the audience was all so invested, the pleas hit in a genuine place – a tribute to both Baig’s acting and director Tawiah M’Carthy’s steady hand on the emotional topography of the piece.

Really, Kitne Saare Laloo Yahan Pey Hain is a triumph of the power of an unreliable narrator to reveal crucial truths without (or without entirely) telling a story as a rehearsal of facts. As a trans person who is regularly invited to (or required to) “share my story” as a way of accessing someone’s cooperation in the struggle for liberation, I found the treatment of this just as powerful and affecting as the super-story of emigration, hope, regret, and wavering optimism. The show I saw was sold out and I would be shocked if the entire run didn’t sell out shortly, as it deserves to. Baig’s work here is tremendous.

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Photo of Bilal Baig by Tanja Tiziana

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