Top 10: Plays that make you go hmmm

August 17, 2017

As an ode to summer Fringe festivals, we rounded up a list of published plays that had us thinking and talking for this edition of Top 10.

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10. On the modern-day food systems

In A Taste of Empire (Talonbooks) Jovanni Sy serves up opinions on the European colonization of Asia, the state of modern agriculture, the ethics of food distribution and consumption – all while making a feast. Lots of food for thought here.

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9. On abortion

Jill Connell’s The Supine Cobbler (Coach House Books) is strange, funny, subversive and has been lauded by Sheila Heti as “the only work of art about abortion I can think of that doesn’t sentimentalize or simplify the experience, but gets the strangeness and banality of it exactly right.” 

 

8. On rape and trauma

Pamela Sinha’s Crash (J. Gordon Shillingford/Scirocco) tells the story of a young woman who’s been raped, but who can’t quite recall her attacker. She tells us: “Can’t remember isn’t the same as forget. Forget is don’t want to remember; can’t remember is don’t want to forget.” 

 

7.  On physical and emotional poverty

Bertha Rand was known in Winnipeg as Cat Lady after battling the community to save her more than fifty cats after criticizing the bylaw limiting the number of cats allowed in a household. In Maureen Hunter’s  The Queen of Queen Street (Signature Editions), we learn about the circumstances that led to Rand to her moniker and ultimately her retreat into isolation. 

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6. On residential schools and trauma

Drew Hayden Taylor’s  God and the Indian (Talonbooks) brings a residential school survivor face-to-face with one of her abusers. The play explores memory and trauma, and the complex process of healing through dialogue.

 

5. On the Iraq war

Set during the 2007 Iraq War,  Truth and Treason (Mawenzi House) explores questions around war and terror, as well as how, where, and by whom the real “war on terror” is fought.  

 

4. On historical patriarchy  

In the mood for an edgy, feminist take on Tudor history? Kate Henning’s The Virgin Trial (Playwrights Canada Press) reimagines the story of a fifteen-year-old Elizabeth the First as she fights her way through a scandal involving sexual impropriety and an attempt to overthrow the government. 

 

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3. On racism and foster care

Kenneth T. Williams makes a compelling case in his play In Care (J. Gordon Shillingford/Scirocco) about the inherent racism in our foster care system and the added challenges marginalized people face. 

 

2. On regulating generic engineering

Wendy Lill was one of the parliamentarians who passed a Canadian law in 2004 concerning human reproductive technologies. Her experience inspired her play  Chimera (Talonbooks), which explores the ethics of stem-cell research – specifically the mixing of genetic material from humans and animals – and its political, scientific, and moral angles. 

 

1. On arranged vs. love marriage

In A Brimful of Asha (Playwrights Canada Press), mother and son Asha and Ravi Jain contemplate the pros and cons of love versus arranged marriages as the each sit on opposite ends of the debate. The play will have you standing with one foot on either side. 

 

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