So tonight we walked down to the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) to see Whispering Pines, a play set both in 1987 East Berlin and 20 years later on the shores of Lake Superior.
This three-actor drama revolves around the relationship between Renate and Bruno, two artists living behind the iron curtain and trying to imagine and create a new world, and Thomas, a Canadian academic who wants to write about the couple.
After the Berlin Wall fell, it was discovered that the Stasi had employed half a million informants, and every third citizen was under supervision. Files have since been released to individuals who had been watched and this play hinges upon Renate’s retrieval of her file and the discovery of betrayal.
I won’t give the whole story away since I do think it’s worth seeing for anyone who might have the chance (although the run ends on Nov 13 at the GCTC). However, I did find the play rather laborious to watch.
It was not unlike reading good, but very dense poetry – poems which you appreciate because there were some beautiful words and turns of phrases, some haunting images or metaphors perhaps – but which leave you rather exhausted and content to close the book after a few poems.
The playwright Richard Sanger is, not surprisingly, a poet. He has been nominated for Governor General’s Literary Awards and his words were certainly layers of complexity and imagery. But it can be rather tiresome to listen to layers of complexity and imagery, set in scenes which leap around in time and are reconstructed in different ways (the same scene played out 4 different ways, for example). It’s interesting, but also a little frustrating. Too clever by half.
The playwright may have intended that we start to question what is the ‘real’ turn of events, whose version can we trust, what does trust mean... Perhaps one could say the layering and weaving of past and present, fantasy and regret, is successful in that it mirrors this intent. One could also say that there is much to be said for simplicity.