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Irreverent and Moral Reviews

L’Apocalypse à Kamloops:

The Théâtre Français de Toronto does a lot of unique, interesting stuff. They do the usual French favorites, of course. If you like interesting takes on classic comedies by Molière, this is your theatre. It's also a good way to see the latest Michel Tremblay plays. Best of all, they do new material.

The latest foray, L’Apocalypse à Kamloops, is about a family with 25 hours left to live. An urbane angel and her earthy apprentice are given the job of helping them resolve their conflicts and redeem themselves before an enormous asteroid hits the Earth.

I am a fan of absurd theatre but after reading Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus in my lonely dorm room, overlooking Mount Saint Victoire in Aix-en-Provence, and watching or reading the classics: Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard etc. I often find new absurd plays to be beside the point.

Yes, Atheism exists. Yes, our lives could be completely random, ordered only by human and natural forces with no ulterior motives to influence us from a higher plane. In fact, Heaven and Hell could just be stories people have made up and told each other because the alternative, that we are just animals like any others, without prospects for life-after-death, is too painful to accept. Worse still, if it's true we have no excuse for what we are doing to the planet and no right to mess things up for other animals because our rights are not superior to theirs.

[Start of impassioned rant.]

In fact, opposing comforting religious beliefs might be the best thing we could do for the Earth and it's non-human residents, but only if we linked this movement to a feeling of dire personal responsibility: No excuses, no afterlife, no divine intervention when things go too far -- just a moral obligation to correct our wrongs ourselves, to forgive each other, to make the world a cleaner, more peaceful place because this world is all we have.

[End of impassioned rant.]

In writing, L’Apocalypse à Kamloops, Stephan Cloutier sidesteps the trap of derivative absurdism by looking at the incongruities of modern life within a framework that postulates a higher power. For him, angels are beings much like humans with vanities and frailties similar to our own, who struggle to influence peoples' decisions within a scientifically sound universe that includes life on other planets. Contemporary French Canadians are not adrift in an absurdist, godless universe, but they must still face facts: Our short lifespans are dwarfed by eternity and the vastness of the (possibly multiple) universe(s). It's cleverly updated absurdism for our multifaith, scientifically sophisticated times and I found it very funny indeed.

Truth and Reconciliation

Guy Mignault, in discussion with the audience after the preview, made an interesting point. He said that in theatre, by playing different roles, you are able to understand how people can do terrible things. He gives the example of a father locking his daughter up in a nunnery, a practice common enough in Molière's day but which we would consider a violation of human rights.

Could we, by putting ourselves into the shoes of those who commit evil acts, prevent them from reoccurring? Can forgiveness and understanding heal the perpetrators as well as the victims? It's a question that returns to me as I have recently finished reading Country of my Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa by Antjie Krog. It's such a hard, poetic, factual book. It made me cry in public places, losing and gaining faith in humanity by turns. Anyone interested in ant-racist anything should read it. I just find it impossible to review Krog's work in an objective way.

Krog is able to depict the stress-induced illnesses and daily horror experienced by those serving or reporting on South African Truth and Reconciliation because she was there. Her writing is up to the task, as is her analysis but her experiences nearly break her, and many her fellow journalists. Rending, painful, necessary. Who needs fiction?

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