Vancouver Theatre: PuSh Festival 2014. Night

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Vancouver Theatre: PuSh Festival 2014. Night

Written and directed by Christopher Morris
A Human Cargo production at PuSh Festival 2014
The Roundhouse
Jan 24-26, 2014


Vancouver, BC:  The events of Night that take place over 24 hours of polar darkness, are precipitated by the unexpected arrival in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, of Daniella (Linnea Swan) a cultural anthropologist who works at the museum in Toronto.
Prompted by a letter she received, purportedly from a young girl Piuyuq (Tiffany Ayaluk) asking about her grandfather, Daniella decides to repatriate the bones of the grandfather to his family - his son (Jonathan Fisher) and grand-daughter. Daniella's arrival awakens old traumas in Piuyuq's father, and Piuyuq's best friend, Gloria (Reneltta Arluk), the real writer of the letter sees that her desire to help her friend has unintended bad consequences.

Developed as a collective creation by actors from Inuit and other different cultures at workshops in Pond Inlet and Iceland, the play paints a bleak picture of life in the distant Inuit communities. Adults are still haunted by their forced separation from their families as children taken away to residential schools. Alcoholism, incest and teen suicides are large problems. But through abuse and trauma, and the loss of her closest friend, young Piuyuq has to find the strength to stand up for herself to  survive. The play is presented in Inuktitut (with surtitles) and in English. A voice (Spencer Naqaritarvik) announces local news from the sighting of a polar bear to the funeral arrangements for Gloria, in the same even tones.

The set was very expressive in itself.  A wasteland of snow covered ground, yet a lamp post lit by electricity.   A radio. And into this scene comes a numbered case from the museum - the grandfather's bones returned to their roots.

This work was beautifully performed. From the first few seconds of Inuit  throat-singing that opened the play I was caught up in the lives of the two young girls, their friendship and the desperation that caused Gloria to take her own life. Overall a very moving piece.