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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Theatre review: Spawn charms with its earnestness

Indigenous drama often veers into melodrama

The purpose of UpInTheAir Theatre’s rEvolver Festival is to provide emerging playwrights with opportunities to explore their voice. Spawn, from Toronto’s Wild Woman Theatre, is one show taking full advantage of this mandate.

Spawn juxtaposes the stories of daughter and father. As the young aboriginal woman who finds herself pregnant, her father who has sold out his heritage in exchange for moving up the corporate ladder of a mining company.

Vancouver director Nyla Carpentier has cast mostly up-and-coming and pre-professional theatre artists. The result is a drama often veering into melodrama as characters meet, starting fighting and then separate.

In one scene Theresa (Tai Grauman) demands that her lover Mikey (Robert Thomson) move out. In a later scene when he comes back though, she yells at him for abandoning her. She repeatedly goes to talk to characters like her Grandmother (Carrie Osborne), only to storm off, saying “this was a bad idea.”

There are ideas bandied about such things “Indian jealously”, a dead mother, or working on a reservation, but they are given only a cursory exploration. For example, at one point Mikey’s older brother (Ryan Erwin) tries to get Mikey to join a gang, but as he latter rages about their recently dead father,  the gang story is missing from the plot. Neither idea is ever fully developed.

The set by Justin BüyüKözer is filled with small boxes and large branches that get repeatedly re-positioned to indicate various locations. Unfortunately it slows the pacing as the cast must keep re-positioning everything and the change is barely noticeable as each configuration is similar in size and shape.

Spawn is admirable in its earnestness, and rEvolver Festival should be commended for bringing it to the stage. But while it is fantastic to see an indigenous story told by an indigenous cast, the real impact may be on the high school circuit where it can prompt discussion.

Spawn created by Cheyenne Scott, Nyla Carpentier, Ashley Bomberry, Alana McLeod, Jake Kalina, Justin Buyukozer. Directed by Nyla Carpentier. A Wild Woman Theatre production. Playing as part of the 2017 rEvolver Theatre Festival. On stage at The Cultch Vancity Culture Lab (1398 Venables St, Vancouver) until June 4. Visit for tickets and information.

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