The Nisei and the Narnauks whimsically tackles difficult historical themes
I trudge through the land of ice and snow: Montreal. I arrive at the point promised: the Maison des arts interculturels (MAI). I sit in the front row of a theatre full of people, eyes fixed on a scene which will unfold. As the lights fade we—the usher beside me, the actors on stage, the director in the back row—all fall into the dreamworld of this play. In the dark, a pact is made. We suspend our disbelief. We believe. We dream.
We are introduced to a young girl on a quest to tell the story of her grandmother’s journey home from a World War II Japanese-Canadian internment camp. As Kimiko relives a time of great hardship, injustice and strife, we follow her hopeful young soul on a magical voyage through the mysterious Canadian woods to return to her sick grandmother. Along the way, she meets a valiant and funny sidekick, Raven: a “Narnauk” or magic spirit. Together they face impossible odds, defeat misunderstood rabbit-eating villains and even make a few friends. The rest? You will have to go see for yourselves!
The show is impeccably presented, joining theatre, music, song, dance and puppetry. Altogether it weaves a story-telling tapestry that we, story-listeners, crave like a warm campfire in a winter storm. Each puppeteer sacrifices body and soul (but mostly body, as the actors tell me) to breathe life into every moment of the beautifully crafted puppets’ roles in the play. Eventually, the line between puppet and actor is so blurred that we believe in talking ravens, wolves and magic spirits.
I recommend this show for story-listeners of all ages and walks of life. It opens up the discussion of a long-forgotten dirty secret of Canadian history and leaves hope for future forgiveness. If you want to warm your hearts, minds, bodies and souls, head down to the MAI for The Nisei and the Narnauks by Paul Van Dyck until Feb. 22.