Jun 19

Night deals with issues facing the Inuit community

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

It is difficult to ignore the social problems that plague the people of Nunavut. We hear it in the news all the time.
Human Cargo’s play Night takes it all on.

The play opens to throat singing, that echos in the theatre. It is raw and unhinging. A women tells us that we stole her grandfather from her, but it’s like he never left. We then meet Daniella (Martha Burns) an anthropologist from Toronto who has traveled to Pond Inlet in Nunavut to do a good deed, in her mind. The museum she works for has kept Jayko Augsaq’s (Johnathan Fisher) father’s remains and she is in Nunavut to return them. She received an email from Jayko’s daughter, Piuyuq Augsaq (Tiffany Ayalik) and came upon her request. We also meet Gloria (Reneltta Arluk), Piuyuq’s friend and classmate.

But things don’t work out as Daniella had hoped, her actions ripping open unhealed wounds and the scenes weave in and out of the many social issues that the community is experiencing. We see how the youth of the community view money and merchandise. How they are not shy to ask for gifts. We see the alcohol and sexual abuse problems that pervade the community. We get a glimpse of the education program in school. We follow Piuyuq and Gloria as they navigate through the darkness, trying to figure out how to live.

A great element of Night is that it is presented in Inuktitut and English, with English subtitles. This blending with Lyon Smith’s sound design give the play a dramatic edge. Gillian Gallow’s set design is intriguing, fake snow covers the stage but hides key props until they are needed. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting design is worth mentioning, giving the snow an eery glow.

Night features great performances from the cast, especially Fisher. The climax of his pain is gripping. Burns plays the earnest Daniella nicely and Ayalik also puts forward a very strong performance.

This play is an intense look at the clash between Inuit and colonial culture and the tragedies that are reverberating from the community. It is a play that is full of sadness and pain. Night holds nothing back as it incorporates all of the issues that plague the Inuit community and presents it in seventy-five minutes. It is an imperative narrative and a dialogue that this country needs to be having, but Night is heavy-handed in its delivery. Audience members will leave the theatre full of despair, but will have a full understanding of the struggles facing the Inuit people and the complexities of those problems. Hopefully we can find light in the darkness.

Night is part of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Tickets and more information is available online.

Photo Credit: Chris Gallow

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