Terrorism begins with a startling scene at an airport where security guards are looking for bombs, but before long it becomes clear that you don’t need literal explosives to terrorize. Even the most ordinary exchanges - office workers gossiping, two people chatting in a park - can be full of danger and threat.
This fascinating play, written by the Siberian playwrighting team known simply as the Presnyakov Brothers, uses a La Ronde-like structure to strong effect. At first the scenes seem unrelated, but the mention of a character here and a detail there add up, and there’s a cumulative power to the work.
Kudos to Royal Porcupine Productions for tackling the piece, which was written before 9/11 but got its first staging at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2003. It’s a shame the production - a Toronto premiere - isn’t stronger.
You need a confident directorial touch to tease out all the subtitles in a rich, ambiguous script like this. For me, the strongest scene was one where two women are casually watching a child at play and bring up the subject of poison. There’s poison enough in their racist exchanges and paranoia, and the two actors deliver their lines with commitment.
Other scenes don’t quite have the same mix of humour and menace. I wish Adam Bailey directed with more visual flair and attention to the rhythms of language, which a dreamlike (or nightmarish) script like this needs. And the tone varies wildly, but perhaps that’s because of some of the unevenness in the performances.
Still, this is a thoughtful, brave choice of play for the emerging theatre company, who are obviously unafraid to tackle challenging works like Sartre’s No Exit and Churchill’s Vinegar Tom.
The play continues at Alchemy Studio Theatre (133 Tecumseth) until Apr 26. email@example.com.