by Dave Ross
Neighbours is billed as a comedy/physical theatre piece, with elements of comedic tension. I didn’t find it as such. RAYVAN (Mirian Katrib) is a Classified Learner who has been taken in for interrogation and she cannot fathom why she is being interrogated. The dialogue of the play is heavy in the use of alternate language—eating is gourmandizing, time is measured in cycles, and almost everything is a Proper Noun. This introduces a slightly unsettling barrier in understanding, which in turn produced a very effective unsettling feeling for the viewer.
The plot reference many concepts that we as a population struggle with today—the blind interrogation of RAYVAN without cause is a nod to Guantanamo Bay, the Freedom Act a reference to the Patriot Act, and the neighbouring territory is an anagram of Canada. There are certainly comedic elements, but they are far outweighed by the distress we feel for RAYVAN, held against her will for crimes she can’t fathom, being moved from location to location without reference, and being unable to declare her innocence. It is clear that the interrogators have decided she is guilty.
Mirian Katrib’s portrayal of RAYVAN was the strongest performance of the evening. Katrib embodies her character so completely, and with such depth. When RAYVAN gets thirsty, you’ll get thirsty along with her. It is worth seeing this show if only to see Katrib’s performance (though there are other reasons to go). The quality of this production is very high, but rather than laughing, it had the audience squirming in their seat. The misclassification of the show as a comedy is unfortunate, as it seems to set the audience up for disappointment. That being said, this is a show worth seeing. Get out to the Ignatieff Theatre and see this one… just don’t worry about warming up your smiley face before going.