‘Lion in the Streets’ opens March 16
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
The award-winning Lion in the Streets, by Canadian playwright Judith Thompson, presents a powerful journey of inner strength and self-discovery.
Directed by Claire Fogal, the upcoming production from the Departments of Theatre and Stagecraft & Event Technology stars Kayla Krishna as Isobel, a young girl on a quest to discover the truth of what has befallen her. Throughout her journey, her courage and innocence touch the lives of many other characters, causing them to re-examine their own places in their magical-realism-infused world.
While the play originally features a Portuguese-Canadian, Isobel, Fogal, and the Theatre Department, with Thompson’s support, have transposed Isobel’s background to make her First Nations and adopted into a Portuguese family. They have also moved the setting from Toronto to present-day East Vancouver. Both of these transpositions have required only very minor changes to the text.
“This is still 100 per cent Thompson’s play, and I am very grateful for her support of this concept,” said Fogal to the Other Press through an email.
According to a press release from Douglas College, Fogal finds the transposition of character background fitting in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. First Nations peoples have long been oppressed and silenced, but—like Isobel—continue to fight bravely for their freedom.
In addition to Thompson’s approval, Fogal and the Theatre Department have also taken steps to ensure that making Isobel First Nations is not in any way disrespectful, by consulting with Indigenous Douglas College Literature Instructor Natalie Knight and other community members on this issue.
“[Knight] brought a deeply insightful sensitivity to our discussions, and confirmed that once she’d read the play, all of her hesitancy disappeared,” said Fogal to the Other Press.
“We are fortunate too to have the support of two Indigenous elders, Gramma Joy Dockrey and Millie McComber, who will bless our space and our process on opening and closing nights.”
With its themes of exposing ugly realities, Lion in the Streets is a very Canadian story—one that unveils facets of our nation that we’re often reluctant to acknowledge.
In her director’s notes, Fogal calls the Canadian identity “one of politeness, niceness, conservatism; hiding the gross and violent racism that has infected our country since its beginnings.” Thompson’s play tears away the pleasant facades to reveal the dark yet necessary truth.
Fogal told the Other Press that preparing for the show has been a very rewarding experience thanks to the efforts of all involved: Assistant director Dahlia Kerr; Mubashar Chaudry, who is advising on a character who has cerebral palsy; and, of course, the cast and crew.
“The cast are tremendous,” said Fogal. “Their courage is inspiring as they are bringing to life so many intense, hilarious, and moving moments. Our designers are wonderful too, giving us the slightly surreal world of Isobel’s quest through set, lighting, costumes, and sound.”
Lion in the Streets will be showing in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre from March 16 to 23, with a free preview show on March 15 at 2 p.m. Advance tickets are available at lioninthestreets2018.bpt.me.