Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Iceland

(L to R) Claire Calnan, Lauren Vandenbrook & Kawa Ada (photo: Joanna Akyol) 

A Play of Ice and Fir€ 
by Beat Rice

Last summer, Iceland won the NOW Audience Choice Award, when it premièred at SummerWorks Theatre Festival. It was sold out and I never had an opportunity to see it. Now Nicolas Billon’s play is part of the Mainstage Season at the Factory Theatre. 

The play has three characters, Kassandra, Halim, and Anna, who are presented in monologues with the occasional dialogue that connects and intertwines their stories. All of them live and work in Toronto, and all are facing the consequences of capitalism and trying to deal with the reality of how money rules. 

In each character we also see representation of the issues surrounding immigration, race, and religion.

Nicolas Billon writes a brilliant play in the simplest of forms. He finds humour in the inherent quirks of humanity and creates three unique characters, who, on one fateful afternoon, encounter each other in the same condo in Liberty Village. In each character we also see representation of the issues surrounding immigration, race, and religion.

Kassandra (Lauren Vandenbrook) is working as an escort, who needs money to continue her studies in Toronto and to send home to Estonia. Anna, (Claire Calnan) a religious bag of nerves, is in desperate need of a finding a new home after being evicted from her previous apartment. Halim, (Kawa Ada) is an in-your-face real estate agent who is basically the personification of capitalism to the extreme. Halim is the one character in which details of his past are not revealed in the same way the two females are. We are left curious about how he came to be such a despicable (but somehow hilarious) person, but in the end, we do not need to know. Some may think that Billion has removed humanizing aspects of Halim, others may disagree and believe that money-hungry man is the epitome of what humans really are, stripped of all moral and ethical niceties. The performances of all three actors were equally strong and riveting. They spend most of their time onstage sitting in a chair speaking directly to the audience, never losing our attention. Director Ravi Jain and the designer have eliminated everything that is not necessary. Staged with three chairs in three distinct sections of the stage, where our focus needs to be is clear

Not only is Iceland a wonderful character piece, it also subtly comments on the trickling effects of global economic fluctuations on the regular Joe. The 2008 banking crisis in Iceland is used as an over arching symbol of the consequences of the capitalist world we did not choose to be born into. We do not choose our circumstances but we chose how to cope with them. To what measures are we pushed to make seemingly unethical and immoral choices, and how much will it cost? What can we learn from Iceland? 

Iceland runs at the Factory Theatre to March 24
Read also Amy Lee Lavoie's interview with Nicolas Billon

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