The Quotable Sayak
The Quotable Sayak is a critic, contributor and coordinator of social media at SesayArts and student at Sesaya.
Don’t let the 45 minutes make you think it’s a short, meaningless show. Mistatim is one of the most thought-provoking shows YPT has ever put on. The captivating story about a girl, Speck (Sera-Lys McArthur), a boy, Calvin (Brendan McMurtry-Howlett), and a horse (Carlos Rivera) is impeccable.
It all starts with Speck watching Calvin whip his horse whom he calls Bruiser because he can’t control him. Speck tells Calvin to stop because he’s making the horse bleed. Calvin explains that this is how he was taught by his dad to “break” a horse, and that otherwise, he can’t gain control. Speck isn’t convinced, and elaborates on the fact that since he can’t gain control by whipping him, why do it?
This idea of control is also implied through the play, for instance, when Calvin feels that he cannot tell his dad to stop treating the horse abusively. He admits that he can’t rack up the courage because he feels controlled by his father, who is always angry.
The topics of abuse and emotions are also brought up through Speck’s description of her family’s treatment at residential schools. For instance, her grandmother is trapped in sadness and doesn’t seem aware of her. The most provocative description is of Speck’s mother who was abused and embarrassed for speaking Cree instead of English at her residential school. However, Speck describes her mother as a fighter who kept talking Cree because that was her native language, and she wanted to speak her language. Speck’s mother is an interesting parallel to the horse, who also responds only when Speck listens to him and speaks to him in his native Cree. In fact, she is the one who hears the horse call himself Mistatim, a name that he responds to.
Throughout the show, there are other references to First Nations peoples, like a discussion between Calvin and Speck about what the “proper” term is: First Nations? Aboriginal? Indigenous? Or Indian?
Aside from the ideas that Mistatim explores, it also has a number of special technical elements, too. For instance, the sound effects: the whip sounds are perfectly in sync with the whip hitting the stage and the sounds of stones hitting objects in the distance. Lighting is also used well in the scenes that need varied colours and “images” like fields. The small set piece of just a corner of a fence is brilliantly used. You feel there is more there than there actually is. The actors move it around to show different areas of the fence. It is coloured green on one side, and the other pink to separate the front and the back and to show which side of the fence the characters are on. The “pieces” of fence are removable so that the actors can take them off for different scenes, like when Mistatim jumps over the fence and allows Calvin and Speck to ride him.
With the great acting, important ideas and wonderful effects, Mistatim is definitely a must-see, and if you say, “I don’t have time”, it’s only 45 minutes, and I assure you, you will love every second of it!
News You Can Use
What: Mistatim, by Erin Shields, based on a concept by Sandra Laronde; produced by Red Sky Performance; directed by Andrea Donaldson
Who: Grades 1 to 8 (Ages 6 & up)
Where: Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 3Z4
When: On stage until February 19, 2016
Why: Great acting, important ideas and wonderful effects
For information and tickets: youngpeoplestheatre.ca and 416.862.2222
© 2016 Sayak S-G, Sesaya