Theatre Conspiracy is a ground-breaking Vancouver theatre company, known largely for their acclaimed 2015 production Foreign Radical. Their newest show, Victim Impact, is a visual and intellectual treat. But while there is no denying that this documentary theatre piece is loaded with research, it does lack heart and clarity.
Based on one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in Canadian history, Victim Impact follows Rashida Samji’s fraud case which affected over 200 people in British Columbia, and involved over $110 million.
Playwright and artistic producer of Theatre Conspiracy, Tim Carlson, has clearly done his research. Years of following the layers behind Samji’s case have resulted in a theatrical documentary that includes verbatim text, transcripts and dramatizations. A huge and admirable feat, it is easy to be carried into the case, and to see the in-depth exploration that Carlson, and his company, have explored.
Directed by Jiv Parasram, with assistant direction by Gavin Cheema, Victim Impact does an excellent job of laying out the case’s complex facts, with the audience exiting the theatre wondering just how easy it could be to get involved in some sort of fraud.
Nimet Kanji does a great job in portraying Samji, creating a multi-layered character that in one minute we sympathize with, and the next scoff at her blatant lies. The remainder of the cast play a variety of characters, including victims and lawyers.
The visuals play a huge role in Victim Impact, with projections by Milton Lim used throughout the performance. Joel Grinke’s set shifts with movable screens and bankers boxes lining the back, transforming the stage into a court room.
But while many of the visual and auditory elements are strong, at times they do overshadow the human element of the story. At one point, as we are brought into the emotion of one elderly man’s story, the music begins to play taking us out of the heart of his character.
A couple attempts at bringing comedy into the story, such as the ‘well-researched fantasy sequence’, feel strained, and do not quite land as they are intended.
Victim Impact keeps the audience at a distance. For a story about the real affect this fraud case had on those involved, it is hard to feel a connection to the victims, as their stories are overshadowed by visuals, sound, and the financial aspects of the story.
In addition to the play, Theatre Conspiracy has also created Victim Impact: The Fraudcast. An ongoing podcast exploring the case with even more depth, one can’t help but think perhaps we could gain just as much from the podcast, as the play itself.
Victim Impact by Tim Carlson. Directed by Jiv Parasram, with assistant direction from Gavan Cheema. A Theatre Conspiracy production. On stage at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until June 17th. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and information.