Paul Love, Associate Toronto Critic
“The Tashme Project: The Living Archives” was born from the desire of creators Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa to learn more about their Japanese Canadian heritage and the plight of their people during World War II when all Japanese Canadians were interned, displaced, or deported by the Canadian government. Ms. Manning and Mr. Miwa felt that talking with those who experienced this horrible treatment and sharing the details about what they faced was particularly important because there seemed to be a lack of communication between the generations that lived through the internment and the ones that were born after the fact.
The show is unique in its presentation because Ms. Manning and Mr. Miwa play themselves, as well as people they interviewed. It is admittedly a bit confusing the first time the actors abruptly become other characters, but once this is clear, it is fascinating to watch as these two performers constantly become very different characters. Ms. Manning was particularly adept at switching from herself to older women, clearly expressing the world-weary voice and slower, hunched movements of a person much older than herself. Because the people being interviewed were second generation Japanese Canadians, or Nisei, who were children and teenagers at the time of the internment, it is quite moving to hear about the horrible treatment of Japanese Canadians through the innocent perspective of a child.
There were times during the performance when characters with very specific mannerisms and/or vocal tones seemed to appear more than once, and I wondered if these were characters from earlier in the show sharing more of their stories. If that is the case, perhaps differentiating specific personalities through a projected name or image, or sound cue might have allowed a stronger connection for the audience. There were a couple of moments, too, when both actors’ volume dropped a bit, making the dialogue difficult to pick up. But these are minor quibbles in a show with such an important message being delivered in such a memorable way.
Director Mike Payette matches the interwoven quality of the story and conversations with a lot of fluidity in the actors’ movements around the stage, bringing the action to an abrupt halt at moments that are about the spoken words and nothing more. Patrick Andrew Bolvin’s sound design, along with George Allister’s visual imagery and David Perreault Ninacs’s lighting design, creates an almost surreal atmosphere, pulling us from the present to the past and back again, amid moments of both calm and chaos.
“The Tashme Project: The Living Archives” is a production that has a lot to say, and all of it important. As Canadians, we should all have a better understanding of this dark aspect of our country’s history.
The show is being staged until February 10th, 2019 at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. in Toronto.
Showtimes are at 8:00 pm Tuesday to Saturday with 2:00 pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as a special 11:00 am matinee on Wednesday, February 6th.
The show is approximately 85 minutes, with no intermission.
More details are available at www.factorytheatre.ca.