Ravi Jain set to undertake “dreamlike” collaboration in PANAMANIA 2015

Nick Catania


The Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games is not only bringing athletic skill and competition to the city this summer. Kicking off with the games, CIBC presents PANAMANIA: a 35-day arts and culture festival to creatively celebrate the diverse artistic contributions of Ontario and the Americas. Running from July 7 to Aug. 15, the festival is set to feature an array of exhibits stemming from visual arts and fashion, to theatre and music.

In partnership with Soulpepper, award-winning artist Ravi Jain of Why Not Theatre brings his “dreamlike” collaboration to the stage in the world premiere of Gimme Shelter. The premise of his one-man show explores individual responsibility associated with the ongoing pandemic of climate change throughout the world.  

In what Jain describes as a great honour to be involved, this opportunity has provided the company with a chance to “step up” their game and quality of work. This excitement is derived from their ambition to create something of caliber, a piece that will hopefully extend beyond PANAMANIA.

Set to perform alone on stage, Jain’s character is isolated on a single island in the South Pacific Ocean. The major thesis of this piece not only reflects individual action, but seeks to question our personal indebtedness to both the planet and one another. 

Jain seeks to accomplish this through the island’s ongoing submersion into the ocean, furthering our simple contemplation over a 10 to 20 minute shower in the morning. This, states Jain, “Is all relative… every decision you make impacts that one person … but it’s also the small day-to-day actions that have the greatest impact as well.”

Much of the interest to undertake such a piece is derived from a traditional Indian tale called The Mahabharata. Although completely different from Gimme Shelter, the ancient text speaks of two families split between the binaries of good and evil. Filled with traditional riddles and folklore, the two families fight for mankind with the overarching question seeking answers as to what makes a person good in this world.

Jain’s piece becomes a revisited result: an old message of “openness and humanity.”

Whereas group collective and initiative may seek to solve the issue of climate change, Jain reinstates the essence of group formation as a collective of individuals. “Even though we may be part of the group, sustaining the group dynamic is difficult.” Not only is it hard to stay actively involved, the subject of climate change is so overwhelming that “we often feel very alone.”

As for Jain and his group of collaborators, the central task becomes recognizing their responsibility in the scheme of things. In a production that blends traditional Eastern storytelling with contemporary western narration, the recognition of privilege becomes central to our understanding of someone else’s suffering on the other side of the world.   

Taking the stage in full mask, this dreamlike blending of design and collaboration seeks to reaffirm individual responsibility as contributing to a very fundamental change in itself. Although many of us have the privilege of shelter, we are all players in maintaining it.

Gimme Shelter is presented as part of CIBC’s PANAMANIA 2015, running from July 13-18 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets to this nearly sold out production, please visit the following link: http://ow.ly/PiMZJ.