Production: DAS DING (THE THING)
Author: Philip Löhle, translated by Birgit Schreyer Duarte
Director: Ashlie Corcoran
Cast: Kristopher Bowman, Lisa Karen Fox, Qasim Khan, Philip Nozuka, Naomi Wright
Company: Theatre Smash, Canadian Stage and The Thousand Islands Playhouse
Venue: Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto, Ontario.
Run: April 12 to May 1, 2016
** (out of five)
When you step in the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs you see a large globe, draped in white sheets with an actor sitting on top of it. He is dressed in white and wears a crown askance. When the performance begins, a man who is identified as the explorer Magellan (Naomi Wright) limps onto the stage. He asks the petulant and somewhat thick person on top of the globe for a raise. It is refused.
The man with the crown is King Manoel of Portugal (Qasim Klan) and Magellan asks for support to find a route to the Indian Ocean by sailing west. The King refuses that request as well and Magellan departs to offer his services elsewhere and circumnavigate the globe. That is clear but the rest of the play is a complete muddle.
Qasim Khan, Lisa Karen Cox, Philip Nozuka, Naomi Wright, Kristopher Bowman. Photo by James Heaslip.
German playwright Philip Lohle’s play is described as a social comedy but I found precious little that was comic and the social commentary was spread over a number of episodes that left me cold.
Here is what the press release says about the play (and if you resort to that you are not paying a compliment to the play):
Das Ding (The Thing) spans an interconnected world that binds the unlikely fates of an African farmer named Siwa, Chinese business people, Romanian pig-breeders and two young Canadian newlyweds Katherine and Thomas. Told through the journey of the eponymous ‘thing’ – a cotton fibre in its apparently endless iterations – the play illuminates the fundamental connection between global economics and our domestic lives, forcing us to consider whether such a thing as coincidence truly exists
Five actors play a dozen roles including The Thing which is the world. The cover of the large globe is partially removed as the performance proceeds and I suppose we see a world destroyed or denuded by us.
Löhle touches on a number of issues starting with the second scene which is entitled Love. The scene titles are projected on the rear of the stage and I was grateful for that. The love story is between Thomas (Kristopher Bowman) and Katharine (Lisa Karen Cox) and like many relationships it has its bumps. I can’t really remember what happens.
Kristopher Bowman, Lisa Karen Cox, Qasim Khan, Philip Nozuka. Photo by James Heaslip.
We move to more global issues. Patrick (Philip Nozuka) is interviewed on Tokyo television by an enthusiastic Journalist (Wright). There are issues with genetically modified food, photography and globalization in general. All of the actors play The Thing which is by no means inanimate. The characters sit on the globe, peer from inside and throw balls, little globes, of course.
I think that is correct but the plot is so convoluted that I found my mind wandering and I no doubt missed a few parts.
The play is co-produced by Theatre Smash and Canadian Stage and directed by Ashlie Corcoran. She tries to create energy by having the actors perform at spirited speeds and they do but the play is basically incomprehensible and provides a pretty bad night at the theatre.