The Vancouver Theatre Company and Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad in co-production with Theatre Calgary

Beyond Eden Written by Bruce Ruddell Music Bruce Ruddell and Bill Henderson Traditionally Inspired Haida Music by Gwaai Edenshaw

Director Dennis Garnhum Musical Director Bill Henderson Choreographer Jacques LeMay Set and Costume Design Bretta Gerecke Sound Design Chris Jacko Soundscape Design Michael Rinaldi Haida Visual Art Gwaai Edenshaw Fight Director Jean-Pierre Fournier Dramaturg Shari Wattling Stage Manager Rick Rinder

Dates and Venue 16 January - 6 February 2010 @ 8:00pm Vancouver Playhouse

Reviewer Jane Penistan

The world premier of Beyond Eden was enthusiastically received by a full house on opening night. This presentation is the fictional, but historically based, story of one man's endeavour to preserve disintegrating totem poles in a deserted Haida village in Haida Gwaii.

Whether this was a good idea or whether the archeologist/anthropologist was misguided is one of the debates of the play. The outcome of the endeavour held a positive result in that the young artist/camera man of the expedition became a world-renowned sculptor and designer of jewelry and an ambassador for Haida art.

In 1957 the dedicated archeologist/anthropologist Wilson Duff led an expedition to the Southern tip of the Haida Gwaai peninsular, to the deserted island of Ninstints to bring back to Vancouver the rotting remains of ancient totem poles of the Haida people, to preserve and save what was left. This entailed cutting up the huge poles, in order to transport them. The Haida Gwaii people objected, saying the remains must stay in situ and let the disintegration take place in the natural return of dead trees to the earth. When it was too late to cancel the destruction and removal of the now cut up poles, Duff had a change of heart.

This story is transformed into a fictional family story, with John Mann as Lewis Wilson, the archeologist and Cameron MacDuffee, as Max Tomson, the young unknown Bill Reid. The Haida Gwaai are led by the Watchman, the dignified and wonderfully bass voiced Tom Jackson.

Lewis Wilson is accompanied on the expedition by his wife Sal (Jennifer Lines) and his son Jack (Andrew Kurshnir), his boat crew and technical assistants, The Watchman is accompanied by his followers, who are, like himself, clansmen.

The technical effects in this production are spectacular. They are never overused. The lighting and projections enhance and illuminate the changing scenes and link them impeccably with the script, the atmosphere, and the tension of the changing scenes. The closing first act fade out after the decimation of the village, by smallpox, is particularly well done. The music throughout is a blend of different types of music, and the rhythmic drumbeat never becomes intrusive. The singing is excellent, in both the solo and the well rehearsed and presented, chorus work.

John Mann, Tom Jackson and Jennifer Lines are outstanding, as is Cameron MacDuffee, especially in his thoughtful, second act solo. Throughout, the movement is always characteristically right, whether dignified and stately or frenzied and fearful as in the storm, or calm, or belligerent, as the scene demands. The pace is varied, never dragging or hurrying unnecessarily.

This is an interesting presentation of fictional versions of an important moment of a clash of cultures which is ultimately peacefully resolved, and a revelation to a young man of what his future and life's mission could be.

There are many reasons for witnessing this informational, controversial, musical, cross cultural production. Its an Olympic occasion.

© 2010 Jane Penistan