The cast of the Ruby Slippers Theatre production of Apres Moi as part of its upcoming double bill.
The cast of the Ruby Slippers Theatre production of Apres Moi as part of its upcoming double bill.

In June 2012, The Vancouver Foundation released a study in which Vancouverites cited a growing sense of isolation and disconnection as their biggest social concern. How can we begin tackling complex issues like poverty and homelessness if we all feel disconnected, isolated and indifferent? This is the question that became the impetus for Ruby Slippers’ upcoming double bill of Apres Moi and The List.

[pullquote]“That’s where there’s going to be hope for humanity; if we take each other in and really encounter the other without judgement without fear, and just reach out to each other.” – Diane Brown, Artistic Director of Ruby Slippers and Director of Apres Moi[/pullquote]“People don’t know their neighbours and there’s this sense that you’re just out there on your own and kind of anonymous,” says Diane Brown, Artistic Director of Ruby Slippers and Director of Apres Moi. “I read the study over a year ago and filed it away in the back of my mind and these [plays] just happened to pull up the file which said ‘right, isolation, this would be relevant to Vancouver audiences because that’s what people are feeling’”.

Telling the story of five people in a motel, Apres Moi, is a world premiere English translation of French-Canadian playwright Christian Begin’s work. It is a play Brown calls a dark comedy with a meaningful message.

“There’s six versions of the same story.” explains Brown. “You’re shown six ways of experiencing the same moment with increasing intimacy. In each room a singular extraordinary event occurs and when one door opens the question is asked: will it make any difference to anyone’s destiny? And of course the answer is yes. When one opens the door, when one lets the other in, your destiny, your trajectory is altered. So it’s all about opening those doors and letting each other in.”

Not to be outdone, The List, a translation of Jennifer Tremblay’s French-Canadian play, offers a poignant yet humorous look at one woman’s sense of control over a difficult world.

“This woman, who prides herself on never letting anything slip by her that’s on her list, finds she has overlooked something and feels culpable in the death of her neighbour.” says Brown. “It becomes a tale of the ordinary and the extraordinary being inextricably entwined. So again, you’re going into this very internal, very personal world where profound universal things are revealed. Truths that we can all relate to are revealed.”

For Brown, these two plays offer a jumping off point, a tool kit for the audience to find answers to combat the growing sense of isolation cited in the Vancouver Foundation study.

“When theatre works and you have that magical theatrical communion with people in a room, independent critical thought is inspired and people talk to each other and we in turn become connected as a community,” she says. “I think that a lot of despair and sadness comes from the fact that there is no sense of real community. That we’re all sitting alone in our apartments with the TV on. If all the walls fell down on the West End what would you see? All these tiny little cubicles with people sitting in front of their television sets.”

Brown also believes that these plays will challenge audiences to look both internally and at others in their community with compassion, sensitivity and empathy.

“That’s where there’s going to be hope for humanity,” she says, “if we take each other in and really encounter the other without judgement without fear, and just reach out to each other.”

Apres Moi and The List play at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver) Jan 27-Feb 1. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets or visit http://rubyslippers.ca for more information.