Heather Redfern, Executive Director of The Cultch described March 5th 2013 as, “The most exciting night of the year”. A brimmingly-full house filed into the East Vancouver cultural centre to witness the world premier of Rio Tinto Alcan’s no-strings-attached, 60 thousand dollar award-supported, Extraction (Theatre Conspiracy).
Extraction, Written/Produced by Tim Carlson (Artistic Director) finds dramatic parallels within, and intertwines the real life stories of its on-stage performers, none of whom are actors by trade; Sunny Sun – a Chinese-born software engineer who has lived in Vancouver for three years, Jason Wilson, a former tar sands CSO who hails from his grandparents farm in the Gitxsan Nation near Cold Lake, and Jimmy Mitchell, journalist, foreign service worker and former Director at Canada’s national Pavilion during the 2012 Shanghai World Expo.
With notable restraint, the startling context of the work is slowly unveiled: an unsettling reality that China – a country with minimal oil reserves of its own, yet a capital city that is seeing an additional five thousand new cars on its ring roads each day – has quietly been authorized by our current federal government to invest over 35 billion dollars in Canadian oil.
Sun, Wilson, and Mitchell, each offering commendable presentation and command of their separate roles, also show significant chemistry as a trio; their perhaps minimal comfort level as “performers” is ideally suited for the size and intimacy of The Cultch… occasional moments of rushed speech and self-conscious body language are forgiven in exchange for the gratifying disclosures of sincerity, vulnerability and authenticity from all three. The gentle, understated performance of Sun, in particular, is exceptionally engaging, and is masterfully highlighted through Carlson’s structure of the piece, with her final words evoking an unexpected, emotional finish to the evening.
Mention should also be made of Cindy Mochizuki’s animation and graphic design, which was brilliantly and beautifully integrated throughout the piece, providing appropriate emphasis to the importance of the word, and necessity of “calling things as they are”; also, Randy Raine-Reusch and Ron Samworth’s musical accompaniment added valued accent to the structure of the night.
Extraction is an extraordinary illustration of Theatre Conspiracy’s commitment to “enhancing a rich dialogue between our city, the province and the international community.” – through an intricate progression of discussions, anecdote and parables wrapped around a series of opinion and experience polls of audience members taken throughout the evening, the production leaves it’s audience with more questions than answers.
Immediately following the opening night performance of Extraction, a representative of Rio Tinto Alcan presented the 2014 Performing Arts Award to Western Front New Music – not before comprehensively separating himself from the evening’s performance, explaining (once again) that the grant is a completely “no strings attached” prize, consequently allowing Rio Tinto Alcan’s name and support to have been given to Extraction, which the representative described as “they (Theatre Conspiracy) say what they want to say, and we all have to listen”. One would, perhaps, have to argue that – armed with the evidence and anecdotes shared through Extraction, the Canadian people are being quietly and systematically being unknowingly forced to be compliant with a much more dangerous fate.