Before the opening performance of The Container, we were given several warnings: the venue (a 20-foot shipping container, filled with up to 6 performers and 19 audience members at one time) was to be non-air conditioned, dark and stuffy. Also, we were going to be given water so that we could stay hydrated and cool.
While The Container is certainly not for the seriously claustrophobic, the experience was not nearly as traumatizing as the preshow speech made it out to be. Yes, it was dark and warm at times. If anything, that only made me grateful that I was only spending an hour in there, and not weeks upon weeks as the characters do in the piece. Being handed a bottle of water prior to the performance only made it more painful to watch the four people stuck in the shipping container together beg the fifth stranger who joins them (Lara Arabian’s Mariam) to spare some of hers with them. The immersive and site-specific components of The Container are top-notch, and are successfully added to Nick Carney’s sound design and Jennifer Lennon’s practical lighting sources inside the container.
Performances range in strength, with Ubah Guled as the young Asha and Bola Aiyeola as her so-called mother Fatima delivering the strongest ones. The weak points of the piece are those involving Constantine Karzis’ character of The Agent. His character development seems rushed and it takes away from the stories of the others that, evidently, have more depth. While The Container starts as a gripping, immersive drama, the piece ends in a series of arguments that do not seem to solve anything. Nevertheless, the piece is a tense and poignant look at themes of trust and survival, and is definitely not one to miss at this year’s SummerWorks Festival.
Written by Clare Bayley
Directed by Zachary Florence
Produced by Sabrina A Bandali
See The Container in The Theatre Centre Backlot until August 17, as part of the SummerWorks Juried Series. For more information, visit http://summerworks.ca/2014/portfolio/container/