Saturday night I took in Where the Blood Mixes at Theatre Network. I needed to take a little time before I wrote about it though, because I was challenged by the piece. Overall it was a very thought provoking night of theatre, but I had to balance my reaction as a theatre goer with my reaction as a human being.
As a theatre goer, It was challenging for me because there are many beautiful artistic things about this production that I appreciated, but it was also flawed so I was frustrated by it dramatically. The images of the skeletal creatures floating above Cory Sicennes' gorgeous set were magic and combined with Dave Clarke's sound design conceptually the production was exceptionally strong. Lorne Cardinal, as the angry and frequently drunk Floyd, is brilliant. He is such a phenomenal talent - a true Canadian treasure. His moments of realness in both anger and shame were heart-breaking and so very, very real. My major issue, however, is with the script. Individually, the scenes are well-written and poetic, sometimes funny, sometimes angry and often sad, but as a whole, the structure of the piece was confusing. To me it felt like it was and should have been Floyd's story, but the trailing bits of the other characters diminished the whole of that. A song in the middle, though beautiful, felt misplaced and kind of stopped the flow of momentum. Many emotional reveals were just yelled, despite them being things that the characters have been unable to talk about for years. I wanted more layers, more levels, more interesting choices. I don't know... it confused me as a whole. I know... because I write, I get caught up in things like arc and character journeys and "who's story is it?" - perhaps it wouldn't bother someone else as much. The rest of the audience did not seem to mind as there was a healthy 2/3 standing ovation. But I really had to sit there to think about what it was trying to say.
Now that I have had a few days to think, as a human being I appreciated what this play tries to do - put a human face on those that suffered and continue to suffer from the effects of residential schooling and also point out a direction for moving forward from it. Floyd becomes much more than just a drunken, broken man. His breakdown at the reunion with his long lost daughter is grounded in emotions of shame, fear, and loss that everyone could understand. It has been a hard year for me trying to understand and learn about a lot of the topics touched on in the play, but I felt that this is where the play succeeds. Floyd's greatest pain is that he feels that he has failed his child, and it is the forgiveness granted that allows him to move forward. It made me realize how important forgiveness is in being able to heal and move forward from the past.
At least that is what I got from it.