Apr 09

Getting down with Simon Mallett – The director chats about SIA

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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In light of Kony 2012, it has become clear that some issues are incredibly complex and require a lot of examination to understand all the factors that are critical to some situations. Downstage Theatre is presenting SIA, a Western Canadian Premiere by Matthew MacKenzie, that tackles the challenging relationship between North America and West Africa.
“We often produce work and then find that something happens just before the work happens that gives it a new light,” Simon Mallett the artistic director of Downstage Theatre, explains, “but I think it also speaks to the fact that the work that we are producing is very topical.”

The play tells of a Canadian University student, Nick, who decides to spend his summer volunteering in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. But when he befriends Abraham, a former child soldier, he is taken hostage in a bid to stop a war crimes trial from proceeding in The Hague. Downstage isn’t afraid of taking on heavy topics. “It explores some interesting global issues,” Mallett says when asked about what drew him to SIA, “it looks at the question of intention versus approach and how can we actually begin to address what’s going on over there.”
It’s definitely a complex issue with no easy answers. And it’s a conversation that should be taking place. “It’s not something that we necessarily are teaching children in school,” Mallet says, “we teach them about the World Wars, but those aren’t the wars that are shaping the world as we know it today.”

The play creates a “central entry point into the story,” as Mallett puts it, given that the central character is Albertan. “I think that [it] opens the door and makes the questions that the play asks more engaging.”
It’s also a beautiful piece of writing. “There is an interesting dynamic between the past and the present and there are some really interesting relationships,” Mallett states.  He’s pretty excited about its presentation, “[the show has] a lot of nice theatricality to it, it’s incredibly compelling and dynamic, it’s heartbreaking but also humorous at times and there is a really wonderful emotional journey that I hope the audience is able to go on.”

SIA closes up the season for Downstage Theatre but they are excited to announce a new partnership with Magnetic North that will kick off their new season. The summer will bring about the “return of a show that has been really popular for [them] in the past” as Mallett says. This blogger has a hutch that it’s In the Wake, which is incredibly exciting. May 15th, Downstage announces their new season.

“Sweeny Todd,” Mallet answers without hesitation when asked what he’s looking forward to in the remainder of the theatre season. “I just think it’ll be a really engaging and dynamic romp through a murderous barber’s life.”

SIA opens this Thursday and tickets are selling fast. More information is available online.

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