Ruby Slippers Theatre

The View from Above by James Long

Dates and Venue 12 – 27 April 2008 @ 8pm| Performance Works, Granville Island

Director Diane Brown Sets Yvan Morissette Costumes Barbara Clayden Lighting Itai Erdal Sound Patrick Pennefather Fight Consultant David Bloom Photography Tim Matheson Stage Manager Sarah Pearson

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Commissioned by Ruby Slippers Theatre and Theatre de la Seizième, this is the English-language world première of A View from Above.

It presents a pessimistic view of Vancouver's future. After the cancelled Olympics, for which Vancouver had its displaced persons living in squalor and poverty in a derelict converted Wheat Pool storage plant on the North Shore, a year or two later they are still there. Inevitably, it is raining.

The double level set is strung with rags; the central upper level holds a minimum of household furnishings in a dingy room. The exterior lower level is strewn with garbage. The scene is redolent of poverty and despair. Only the smell is missing.

In the upper room Marsha (Karin Konoval) is sitting with her feet in a tub. She is frightened by a mysterious masked figure peering in through the cobwebbed, filthy back window, but the figure disappears as she struggles up to go to the window. Stuart (Tom McBeath), her husband comes in through the back door, and hides something in his coat as he hangs it up on a peg to dry. Marsha explains her fears and Tom shares a small parcel of food with her.

From under the deck, front stage, first a hand appears and then slowly, a frightened Roland (Kyle Rideout) comes out into the rain. It transpires that he is the son of Marsha and Tom, living with a girl the parents do not approve of, under their house.

Every one is hungry. They have no money and almost no food. This gnawing hunger is common to all and drives each character to stealing and hiding the loot, or gobbling whatever is found that is edible.

Marsha still thinks that a family dinner is in order and invites Roland and his girlfriend. From a neighbourhood fire, Tom manages to salvage a suspicious looking roast for the feast and from somewhere produces vegetables and a bottle of wine. After some argument, Roland, in a scrounged, too big, business suit, and Trish (Donna Soares) with a baby, mount the ramp to the front of the parents’ room. But Marsha has been sampling the bottle of wine that Tom has provided and left within her reach.

She becomes more and more oblivious to what is going on around her. Having put on her remaining jewellery, and imagining herself back in time, she becomes the charming mother/hostess she once was. Trish is so hungry that she gobbles any vegetable within reach.

Then the baby begins to cry, yelling frantically and ceaselessly. Then the noise begins, and the building shudders. The lights flicker and the baby ceases to wail. Is there a future in this darkening place?

There are four good performances is this bleak play, which does have its lighter and humourous moments. Marsha’s descent into the unreal is funny, delightful, but tragic.

It is a beautifully realized performance. I found this a depressing play for a sunny Sunday afternoon, or any time for that matter. It is a sad reflection on indifference to the plight of the hungry, homeless, and helpless, in an shifting land mass, in uncertain times.

© 2008 Jane Penistan