Jivesh Parasram has identity issues and he tells you all about them at the Theatre Passe Muraille in a one-man show written and performed by him.
Identity issues are hardly a novelty in Canadian society and culture what with immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America – make that the whole world – but Parasram is a special case. He starts with Indian culture and Hindu religion which he transports to Trinidad and then transfers to Nova Scotia. He has to deal with the remnants of British imperialism (or is it colonialism?), Caribbean poverty and Canadian racism. And that’s just the beginning.
Parasram blends music, personal stories, sharp commentary and singing into a 90 minute show that has much to offer. He is a prodigiously talented actor and performer with a show that is perfectly suited for a Toronto audience where there is a vast array of cultures and perhaps people with more significant identity issues than Parasram’s though I doubt it.
The problem I had is that my identity concerns are different from his and I did not understand many of the references to events, rituals, people or anxieties that he has lived through or is living with. He spoke at times as if he were addressing people who had similar backgrounds to his who could relate to what he was talking about and they were enjoying it but it went over my head. So much for knowing what our neighbours are all about and I am speaking only for myself.
Some of the humour is self-deprecating and his analysis of being marginalized is astute but verges on being an academic analysis. His story about calving a cow (the secret animal of the Hindus, remember) is a bravura piece of hilarious comedy combined with cultural commentary.
In the first half of the show Parasram tells his story in front of colourful curtains suggesting an Asiatic culture. In the second half he becomes almost a cabaret singer and performer.
He relates with the audience superbly. There is a scene a scene where he wants to establish that we are all Jiv or somehow related but the scene is too long and ceases to be amusing. Parasram persists in asking the names of members of the audience until they all say they are Jiv. It’s not the best part of the show.
Tom Arthurs Davis directs the energetic performance and is credited with being the dramaturge of the piece. The show is created by Parasram, Davis and Graham Isador.
Immigrants go through phases of alienation and confusion followed by attempts at integration and assimilation and finally in self-assertion. During the journey they affect the “Canadians” whom they found on arrival and strive toward becoming unhyphenated Canadians where the quotation marks are removed for all. It is a long journey and we are a long way from achieving it. Parasram’s show helps us all on the way.
Take d Milk, Nah? by Jivesh Parasram in a production by Pandemic Theatre and b current will run until April 28, 2018 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto, Ontario. www.passemuraille.on.ca (416) 504-7529