Headlines Theatre and Check Your Head

Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver, BC


By June Heywood

Getting stamped with a bar code generates the first uneasy feeling for the audience/participants as they enter the world of Corporate U.

Headlines Theatre and Check Your Head have teamed up under the swift-thinking artistic and managing director David Diamond, to create a local interactive play with global ramifications.

The theatre becomes fictitious Hamilton Hall. University students (the audience) are staging a sit-in to protest against an institute of learning treating them as bar-coded products and ripe for indoctrination.

The story within the story is of a greedy business owner who is hungry for more than a 10% increase in his company’s annual growth. He closes down his firm in Richmond and moves the business to Thailand where labour is cheap and management is brutal. He gets his Human Resources person to tell the 250 workers they’re fired. Eventually, so is she.

Begging on the street is a former employee, a single mother with a problem child. The factory worker and manager sit and talk. Their former employer sees them and hurries past. Nothing is resolved.

The action on stage pauses. Through audience participation, Diamond demonstrates, by birthplace, the global nature of people in the audience.

Before the play begins again, Diamond asks those who have an idea of how to solve a problem of a character who is hurting, to shout, “Stop!” halting the action. The audience member is then to go on stage and engage in the struggle of the character they replace.

This is the core of the play. Audience members become enmeshed and grapple with the issues. The actors show their in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and switch seamlessly from one scenario to the next.

Diamond poses questions to make the actors and the audience think more deeply about the global issues. Those presented include Third World debt reduction; trusting others; letting people thrive where they live and work; paying a fair wage; enforcing labour laws; understanding one another and working together to improve all lives. Diamond encourages us to share our insights and to refrain from stereotyping other people.

As the electric-blue haired street person Emme Lee gives a magnificent, deeply emotional performance. The other cast members - Valerie Laub, Kevin Millsap, and Charlene Wee are also powerful players.

I have only one peeve. The giant screen on which logos, facts and figures are displayed while the actors are performing distract me. These slides give vital information. They would be used to greater effect if they had been shown, in silence, between the first and second part of this dramatic piece.

On Saturday, December 16th, Corporate U goes global over the Internet. The play is simultaneously broadcast on Shaw Cable, Ch.4 in Vancouver.