Review Toronto Laboratory Theatre Production
In Sundry Languages isan accurate description of the mode of communication in Toronto, and indeed inall of Canada, of new immigrant. It is also the title of a multilingualtheatrical production reflecting and poking some fun at the difficulties ofEnglishless people to understand English speakers. It is a collective creationof Toronto Laboratory Theatre and it has six performers and lists four producersand a dramaturge among other contributors. Art Babayants is one of theproducers, a performer and TLT’s Artistic Director.
The performers present a number of disparate short sketches in a numberof languages that reflect the lives of immigrants who speak little or noEnglish. Most of the dialogue is spoken in the performer’s native language andevery immigrant will be able to relate to the situations presented.
In Sundry Languagesis a work in progress and I think every performance is quite different from theprevious one. The performance that I saw on June 29, 2019 was funny, touching,irreverent, exuberant and a unique glance at the lives of newcomers to Canada.It was done in a number of languages and I regret that I did not get all thelanguages that were spoken. There was Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, Greek andprobably several other languages that I simply did not catch.
Since the performers speak in their native tongue, you do not understandeverything that is happening but you get the drift of the situation and thehumour.
Ahmed Moneka is a 6 ft. exuberant Iraqi who dared to appear in an Iraqifilm that showed gay men. His return to Baghdad became, to put it politely, inadvisable.He opens the show as an would-be actor auditioning for a role as a terrorist toBabayants. He plays a taxi driver with a customer who does not know where shewants to go and several other parts. He is high-spirited and entertaining.
Riaz Mahmood is from Bangladesh and there was a large contingent ofBangladeshis in the audience who enjoyed his performance.
Lavinia Salinas is almost embarrassingly well educated (Economist,Engineer, Philosopher, teacher etc.) and talented to boot. She and Arfina Mayas well as the other performers answer the question of “where are you from” andin keeping with the desire of some immigrants to “belong” all of them answerToronto. It takes several questions to pin them down to their country oforigin. When one immigrant after being asked several times “where are you from”finally states that she is from Africa, her questioner reveals her knowledgewith the comment “Africa– nice country.”
The flamboyant Maria Kordoni is the Geek performer and listening to herI realized how much I missed by not understanding the other languages. Shedemonstrates to Moneka the difference between chocolate and vanilla by pointingto his skin and to her own. Quite funny when the two finally understand eachother. She sings a beautiful Greek lullaby and like most immigrants expressesher love for her country. But right after that she gives a frightful decryptionof Greek bureaucracy in action or inaction. Patriotism does not trump realism.Immigrants love their fatherland but prefer to live in Canada.
The show lasts barely an hour and you want more. More stories, moretime, more, more more. Every ethniccommunity and indeed every immigrant has a stockpile of stories, funny, dramatic,sad, about trying to communicate with the “locals”. TLT has clearly startedquarrying the huge mine called the immigrant experience and the show will beproduced in other venues during the summer in different languages. After hawkingthe show to ethnic groups in Toronto there are plans to go on national tour.
We say bravo to them in as many languages as are spoken in Canada.
InSundry Languages by Toronto Laboratory Theatre was performed a number of times includingJune 29, 2019 at Aki Studio, Native Earth Performing Arts, 585 Dundas St. East,Toronto, Ont. It will be shown at Studio N, Toronto on July 2-27. See theirwbsite for details. https://www.torontolab.org/isl