Reservations Observations

For a journalism assignment I was required to go see Reservations, a play produced by Theatre Projects Manitoba and write about my experience.

I enjoy Theatre Projects Manitoba productions.  Their production of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit stands as one of the most powerful theatre experiences of my life. I appreciate their experimental theatre vibe, but experiments are hit and miss. They can either be resounding success, or miss their mark.

My experience with Reservations was the later. The show is two plays run back to back and explores indigenous issues, restitution, and CFS.

I loved the show’s lighting and projection design. Hugh Conacher did an amazing job creating a visually interesting lightscape for the stage. There was a a billowing wheat field projection that was physically billowing. It was amazing.

There was some clunky dialogue, awkward blocking, and cliche acting that pulled away from the beauty of the set.

Overall the performances were believable and moving. I found Tracey Nepinak’s performances as Esther and Denise particularly enjoyable.

The play’s opening involved dramatic lighting and possible symbolism that I missed entirely. I’m not a big fan of plays that open with tableaus, and Reservations did not change my mind on the matter.

I’ll admit that I’ve never seen a show that focussed on indigenous issues like Reservations did. I appreciated how the difficult content was approached and relaid to the audience. I wasn’t lost once, quite a feat when a large portion of the play revolves around Heidegger.

During the last half of the second play, however, I felt like the playwright (who also starred) was being to blunt in his writing. Instead of subtle teasing out themes in his characters and dialogue, he used  a gimmick to have one of his characters outright explain the main themes behind the plays (as well recite a number of Heidegger quotes.)

This play sparked a lot of interesting conversation with my classmates and instructors. Discussions about whether the play was entertainment or not were heated. Some people enjoyed the play’s “on-the-nose” approach, while others found it preachy.

Although I found it “on-the-nose” (using dialogue to directly communicate themes) I didn’t feel like I was being preached to. Maybe the many Fringe plays I’ve watched have numbed me to so called “preachy” scripts. Sometimes, playwrights write plays with agendas, to educate the audience, to make them think, and I don’t mind watching theatre with an agenda. I appreciate it as both an art form and an educational tool.

I appreciated that even though the script was written by a non-indigenous man, he approach the subject with respect and reverence.

The talkback session did not add to my experience. I don’t like talkback session where the show’s writer is present as the talkback usually degenerates into people trying to get the author to confirm their personal theories about the play and reveal his deepest intentions and meanings. I couldn’t hear many of the speakers and got lost about halfway through the talkback as to what was being asked or discussed as it seemed to be a single question being thrown back and forth.

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