Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools is full of transgressive power

KIINALIK: THESE SHARP TOOLS by Evalyn Parry and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Theatre Passe Muraille/Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander)..


KIINALIK: THESE SHARP TOOLS by Evalyn Parry and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Theatre Passe Muraille/Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander). Runs to November 5. Pwyc-$40. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNN

The Arctic is one of the key elements that defines Canada as a nation, yet few Canadians have directly experienced it. Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, an absorbing multimedia performance piece by Evalyn Parry and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, exposes that lack of knowledge while offering a glimpse of the Arctics otherness that will awaken an urgent desire to learn more.

Parry and Williamson Bathory met while travelling on a research ship from Iqaluit to Greenland. Parry, a Toronto folk singer and theatre-maker, revelled in her new experience while Williamson Bathory, an Inuit storyteller with relatives in both Canada and Greenland, was traversing her ancestral lands. Against Elysha Poiriers gorgeous video projections of the Arctic, the two women combine their very different perspectives to create a performance using their arsenal of artistic tools folk songs, throat-singing, storytelling, miscellaneous historical and autobiographical material and uajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dancing) to convey the complexity of the North and its past.

Parry laments how she learned so late of the Canadian governments High Arctic Resettlement Experiment (1950s to 1990s) in which Inuit were forcibly removed to the upper reaches of the Arctic so Canada could assert its sovereignty there. Williamson Bathory describes the paradox of living in a wooden house in the North, where there are no trees, while using energy and heat from imported fuel.

Alternating between acoustic and electric guitars and aided by Cris Derksen on cello, Parry performs songs that memorably blend wit and melancholy. Meanwhile, Williamson Bathorys uajeerneq performance transforms her from the mild-mannered person we first meet into an unbridled spirit of individual, social and sexual freedom. The moment is astonishing and almost frightening in its transgressive power.

After watching Kiinalik, it will be hard to hear the lyrics from the Canadian version of Woodie Guthries This Land Is Your Land the last song Parry sings in the show without thinking of colonialism, industrialism, global warming and how we are unmaking the very land the song celebrates.

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