BLINK By Nicolas Billon and the company (Soulpepper Academy). Opens Friday (June 6) and runs to June 15 at the Young Centre (55 Mill). 416-872-1111. See Openings. Rating: NNNNN
In a world where a cellphonemakes anyone a photographer, does photojournalism have the importance it once did? Even when it’s dealing with the outrages of war?
Those are the questions that have been involving the nine-member Soulpepper Academy as they devise their new show, Blink.
“Can you compare Vietnam War photos and those from the Iraq war, and do we react to them differently?” asks playwright Nicolas Billon, who’s charged with pulling together a text after 18 months of work.
“I wonder why there aren’t street protests on the scale of the 60s, given what we’ve seen. I suspect one reason is that these days we’re saturated with war images. Just as pornography has become more hardcore because you have to one-up the previous image, photojournalism also has to go one better.”
The company initially began working on a show about faith, with a classical painting as their springboard. What eventually developed was a piece about Joshua, a war photographer trying to bridge his work in the Middle East and his life in Canada.
“I think one of the watershed moments for us was when we decided not to set the show over there but, rather, here, after he’s seen what he’s seen,” says Billon, author of The Elephant Song and The Measure Of Love and adapter of Soulpepper’s The Three Sisters.
Having lost a good friend and mentor during a military operation, Joshua returns home to his pregnant wife. He has to sort out his obligations and decide if his personal life is more important than the work he does and its effect on others.
“In our research, we discovered that the divorce rate is really high for war journalists; relationships are often strained. I think Joshua’s problem is that having had certain war-time experiences, he can’t go back to business as usual.
“That’s what we want to explore in Blink, using not only Joshua’s Canadian world and friends, but also a dream world and the unnamed soldier who’s a creation of Joshua’s imagination.”