Coyote Collective’s production of Labour, directed by Eric Welch, heightens black box theatre to a whole new level of creative genius. Written by Eric and Ryan Welch, the play depicts the foregoing corruption of capitalism within our modern society, in addition to capturing the struggle endured by workers with normal, everyday lives. Labour transports the working mentality into the theatre, with a creative political agenda to discuss.
As the play commences, the audience is introduced to our protagonist, Kid (Max Tepper), a clock-punching warehouse worker trying to make it into the union. The play then begins to unfold around Kid’s co-workers: Paul (Blue Bigwood-Mallin), a perverse divorcee, and Gene (Andrew Cromwell), a troubled husband trying to make ends meet. As the play progresses, we are introduced to Kid’s love interest, Woman (Susannah Mackay), a ‘hooker.’
A great deal of the performance’s engagement is derived from the movement and mime techniques worked through the direction of the script. Audiences are immediately propelled into the overwhelming dilemma issued by physical labour’s corruption to both our bodies and minds. The mime is tactful and brilliant. One particular aspect that stood out from the production was the impeccable direction of timing and pace delivered by the actors. Not a moment was rushed, assisting to signify the brutal longevity of physical labour in masculine dominated environments.
In terms of the production’s design, special mention hereby goes out to set and lighting designer, Amanda Wong, for her creative use of fragmented moments and spaces. The set was utterly minimalistic, with a tasteful design to emphasize each particular setting. From a technical standpoint, all cues were properly called and synchronized perfectly with the movement of the piece.
One particular downfall that stood out towards the end of the production was Andrew Cromwell’s portrayal of Gene. Cromwell unfortunately lost sight of the character’s situation and was unable to deliver at one of the most pivotal moments of the performance – Gene’s suicide. Prior to this, Cromwell delivered an inherently believable performance, but to my disappointment, the reality was soon lost.
Overall, the play was creatively written with a distinct political agenda that addresses the impact and struggle of capitalism within our modern society. The play also greatly touches upon constructs of masculinity, and the mental struggle of dealing with misogynists in a muscle-based atmosphere.
Labour is presented by Coyote Collective and runs to February 9th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.passemuraille.on.ca or by calling 416.504.7529.
photo credit: Dan Huziak