Pig Girl at Centaur Theatre in Montreal

Hey all! If you’re in the Montreal, Quebec area, you should definitely check out Colleen Murphy’s play Pig Girl, playing at the Centaur Theatre February 3 to 6. I managed to nag a ticket for opening night in order to write a review for The Concordian, aka the Concordia University newspaper. This post will be a bit of an extension of that review.

So, first and foremost: the plot. Pig Girl aims to put a face to the missing and murdered indigenous women, a major issue in Canada right now. It’s so easy to think of these women as nothing more than a statistic, but we have to remember that we’re talking about actual people, here. So, the play features Dying Girl, a young indigenous woman, kidnapped and murdered by Killer, and her Sister who attempts to prompt Police Officer to pursue the investigation.

It’s a tough story to watch, but it’s so important.

The cast is truly fantastic. The women especially – Reneltta Arluk (Dying Woman) and Julie Tamiko Manning (Sister) – are spectacular. Both actors brought me to tears many times throughout the show. They are so sincere and so generous in their performances. They just give and give and give to the audience. Graham Cuthbertson plays the Killer, a tough role to take on in the first place – but amazingly enough, he only joined the cast six days prior to opening night! The previous actor had to leave unexpectedly due to illness, but let me tell you, Cuthbertson does an amazing job in the role. I mean, how do you immerse yourself that much into such a terrifying character in such a short amount of time?

I have to say, I was a bit perplexed by Micheline Chevrier’s staging. It’s certainly very ambitious, for many reasons: she has all four characters standing in a straight line, each standing in a small rectangle of dirt. They interact with each other, yes, but they’re always facing the audience, which makes the play very intimate. Chevrier admits right away that in this choice, she breaks one of the first rules of theatre: never make a straight line onstage. But here’s the thing: the play is around 90 minutes long, and for the entirety of that 90 minutes… they don’t move. I mean, they roll around a bit in the dirt they stand in – it’s very visceral – but otherwise there’s very little movement. Not a great way to keep the audience engaged.

Another reason why this staging is particularly daring, is because, as an audience member pointed out after the show during the talkback (these talkbacks take place after every show), these four characters are all placed on the same level – killer and killed. It’s tough to watch. Is it too soon to look at this issue from such an objective point of view? Chevrier’s answer was that she wanted to show that not one voice is more important than another. It’s a good point to make, but it’s also tough to swallow when discussing such an important issue.

I also had a bit of an issue with the text itself, in that it was very repetitive. The plot mostly involves a slow unveiling of each character as we get to know them separately, but it’s very slow. Many of the arguments repeat themselves several times. It makes sense with this kind of political/activist theatre that the point it’s making should be very clear, but I’m sure there are better ways to convey it than by repeating it this often.

I realize I’m criticizing a lot of this play, but I’m a very critical person and am quick to point out flaws in productions. This is truly an amazing, heart-wrenching play, and I do recommend it. If you aren’t convinced yet, you should know that Imago Theatre, the company putting it on, has adopted a pay-what-you-can policy, meaning you pick up a ticket before the performance for free (you have to arrive early, though), and you only pay afterwards. There’s no minimum. If you do want to reserve a ticket in advance, general admission is $15, and it’s $10 for students/seniors/artists/Centaur Subscribers. They want to make theatre, and especially this story, more accessible, which is super important to me personally, so go support them! It’s a great company with a great objective, and you’ll be seeing a truly fantastic show with some of Montreal’s best actors. You have until February 6th to catch it!

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