Pi Theatre

The 8th Land by William Maranda
Directed by John Wright

Dates and Venue 15 – 31 May 2008 @ 8pm | Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright Street, Granville Island

Director John Wright Live Music and Composition Joseph “Pepe” Danza Movement Colleen Lanki Sets and Props David Roberts Lighting Del Surjik Costumes Marti Wright Stage Manager Lorilyn Parker

Reviewer Jane Penistan

The world première of The Eighth Land offered a spectacular performance of this intricate, introspective, and thought-provoking work.

The playwright says in his notes that it is “A kind of allegorical writing to best depict the general condition of mankind”. Set on Easter Island, this is “not a depiction of the anthropological explanation of what truly occurred” there, but “to portray the human condition as tragic, and to reveal his vanity as an emotional element unwilling to alter its habits even in the face of final disaster.”

Presented with a chorus and thrilling drumming accompaniment, this prophetic parable of the fate of the human race if it does not recognize its obligations, is a challenge to contemporary audiences. When presented with a set of circumstances that threaten the future of humanity, what is the right course for leadership?

Blaming the previous generations for the devastation that now encompasses his once prolific and verdant land, should Te-Te seek to move to find another island for his people, or stay to await the produce of itslone palm tree? His people are starving, and the lone palm will not provide food. But it will provide a means of seeking another island if cut down and hollowed out into a canoe.

Advised by his mother, Oehe (Susan Ristic), berated by Hotu Matua (Alvin Saunders), or counseled by Huva (Linda Quibell), Te –Te (Parnelli Parnes), must decide what course to take for the future for his people. His people are the chorus who are warriors, exploring seamen, and the now starving petitioners of his island.

The work of the chorus is outstanding physically and aurally. The complicated movement patterns, the dramatic choreography, and the beautifully harmonized speech of this ensemble are impeccable.

Fear, hope, despair, reprising old wars, setting off on a voyage of exploration and returning empty handed, or petitioning for food and life itself, are all intensely expressed and felt. This is a masterpiece of ensemble work meticulously conceived and flawlessly performed.

As Te-Te, Parnelli Parnes sustains his leading role with all its complicated problems with considerable grace and stature.

Joseph “Pepe” Danza’s incidental music and accompaniment are exciting and brilliant. Such drumming as this is rarely experienced. It both enhances the atmosphere of the drama and is emphasizes the sense of each successive scene.Marti Wright’s costumes and the unusual and fascinating face and body painting of all the characters are another superb aspect of this remarkable production.

The central island of the acting area becomes many settings by the skillful use of the choreographic design of the chorus’s movement and use of artifacts such as paddles or batons. Del Surjik’s lighting illuminates the performance brilliantly, from mysterious pre-dawn twilight through tropical sunlight to glittering starry night.

John Wright has inspired all departments of his theatre company to produce this engaging, moving, provocative, and truly first-rate performance.

© 2008 Jane Penistan