The Incident at Canada Water Theatre
When dealing with themes that hold such weight and current cultural baggage as immigration, racism and the fault in “colour blind” politics, it is necessary to allow for as much nuance and room for discussion as possible. In The Incident, a play following the relationship between Jan, a Swedish teacher, and his partner Monica, a PhD student and Zimbabwean immigrant, this is done partly through a cast and crew that spans continents. Writer and producer Joakim Daun is Swedish, as is David Weiss who plays Jan, while the co-directors Arne Pohlmeier and Tonderai Munyevu hail from Germany and Zimbabwe respectively. Along with British Cassandra Hercules as Monica, this international team use their varied perspectives to create a subtle and rigorously thought through production.
The piece does not shy away from the complexity in its subject matter and does justice to the high stakes involved. The intersections of race, gender, class and national identity are all represented and explored with fierce intensity. Similarly, Jan’s seemingly liberal views are interrogated rigorously, fully demonstrating that being aware and well-meaning when it comes to minority politics is not the same as active support. This constant questioning does not leave the audience with easy answers or a satisfying ending, but is honest and open in its portrayal of the immigrant experience. The two actors shoulder this intricacy well. David Weiss is convincing as a frustrated man who cannot see beyond his own experience, but Cassandra Hercules especially shines as the equally furious, intelligent and wronged Monica.
At times, however, the script and staging struggle under the weight of the political and social messages they have to carry. With the short stage time encompassing two continents and what seems like many months in short, intense scenes, the transitions are sometimes clumsy and stilt the flow of the production. The script, meanwhile, has to sacrifice a degree of realism and lyricism to encompass the discussion and debate being held. Combined, these give the play the air of something unfinished and overly mannered. The actors struggle to portray the passion and upset necessary whilst following the discursive and explanatory lines.
To cram the entire, difficult world of racial discourse and politics into a single relationship is a daunting challenge. Although the size of the issue holds back the theatricality of this production, its politics and perspective are sound, whilst the audience can be in no doubt that it comes from a place of experience, conviction and zeal.
Photo: Joakim Daun
The Incident is at Canada Water Theatre from 16th October until 19th October 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for The Incident here: