Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Mo and Jess Kill Susie (Fringe)

The Hostage
by Colette Shaw

I felt prepared for the performance of Mo and Jess Kill Susie by the time I arrived at the actual performance space. Staged in a basement room at the Trinity-St. Paul’s church on Bloor Street, after passing the box office I walked down at least one flight of stairs and turned down several corridors before arriving in the small, windowless room the show is staged. The sense of distance and separation from the real world are pitch-perfect for this tense, claustrophobic, piece. The story of two First Nations women and their bound, gagged white hostage features evocative writing: I don’t think I’ll ever look at raw steak quite the same way. 

The three performances are strong but wildly different: my personal favourite is Jacklyn Francis’s Susie; I was pleasantly surprised at how little her performance is hindered by being bound and blindfolded for the entire piece (and gagged for much of it). Siobhan Richardson’s frenetic Mo pushes all of Katie Messina’s slower burning Jess’s buttons, and the ebb and flow of the resulting tension are carefully timed by director Brenley Cherkow. Jade Elliott’s fight direction is strong and tight in such a small place, and well executed by these skilled performers. The play addresses the difficult topic of Canada’s treatment of our Native citizens, and asks if it is possible to break the cycles of violence we find ourselves part of unwittingly. This is a heavy, challenging work, but worth seeing if you’re willing to invest the emotional energy.       

Mo and Jess Kill Susie is at the Toronto Fringe

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