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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre Review: Peace Country is timely and important

Pedro Chamale's Peace Country continues at the Firehall Arts Centre until October 22.

Peace Country, a rice and beans production premiering at the Firehall Arts Centre, sensitively explores many important and timely topics through the lives of five young people navigating their identities, intercultural relationships, and their connection with place and community.

Set in a rural town in BC’s Northern Interior, the narrative takes us on a journey that tracks, in non-linear fashion, five childhood friends who must navigate shifts and changes in the place they call home as they transition into adulthood. The most pressing issue that dominates the plot and the physical staging is the looming threat of rising temperatures and raging wildfires in the vicinity. Chillingly and prophetically, the events of the play mirror current news stories in the area, emphasizing the importance of this story and the urgency, emotion, nuance and empathy it elicits.

The Firehall kicks off its 41st season with the world premiere of Pedro Chamale’s Peace Country.
The Firehall kicks off its 41st season with the world premiere of Pedro Chamale’s Peace Country.

As a new political party comes into office with promises of change that threaten this small town dependent on the carbon economy, Peace Country examines the vast dichotomy in lived experience that can occur within the same province in different towns. The way the action shifts from one time period to the next helps to provide a rich tapestry of context, effectively illustrating the evolution, both positive and negative, for the characters, the climate crisis, and what accountability looks and sounds like in this complex area of ‘being green’ and needing to survive.

Penned and directed by Pedro Chamale, it’s clear that many personal and intimate experiences and sentiments are woven into the script, resulting in a heightened sense of authenticity. Creative lighting, sound, staging and costume combine beautifully to transport us comfortably from one temporal place, era, and weather state to another. While it could be argued that some dialogue could be cut to keep focus and momentum, the characters are written with such warmth and multidimension that their every move is compelling, often hilarious, and equally moving. The chemistry between the actors is a winning formula for delivering the meaningful messages, offerings and questions the play presents in a way that does the script justice. Sara Vickruck, in particular, gives a performance full of heart and flawless comedic timing.

In his director’s note, Pedro Chamale expresses, “thanks for being willing to hear these young people out.” This sentiment truly encapsulates this play’s essence – we must listen to each other and future generations to grapple with and tackle what the future holds. And seeing such an exciting and innovative production that focuses on a BC story on BC soil is an experience not to be missed.

Peace Country, written and directed by Pedro Chamale. A rice & beans theatre production developed in association with Playwrights Theatre Centre, in association with Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre, and created with support from PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and presented by the Firehall Arts Centre. On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 E. Cordova St, Vancouver) until October 22. Visit firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.

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