Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
Ngozi Paul is a familiar name and an audience draw. Her work spans stage and screen in Canada, the US, the UK, and even countries in Africa. And her range is astonishing. While her name is most often associated with the now-classic play and award-winning TV show da Kink in My Hair, her credits are vast. Last season, her solo show The Emancipation of Ms Lovely (which she also wrote) topped many “must-see” lists.
Currently, she is on stage in Canadian Stage’s production of Caryl Churchill’s tour-de-force Love and Information, a play composed of 57 discrete vignettes, in which 8 actors portray over 100 characters in just under 2 hours. Ms Paul’s multi-talents find fertile ground in this Churchill work, which requires quick changes of character, costume and climate, across various circumstances and multiple generations. This is well-timed choreography of a unique kind – and it is not a vehicle for the faint of heart. Precision of movement and speech is paramount when so much of the play’s meaning resides in the integrity of each episode and its perceived contribution to the thematic continuity (or discontinuity) experienced by each audience member. Naturally, Ms Paul shines in her multiple roles.
SesayArts: I’ve never seen or studied Love and Information. Everything I have read about the play suggests that it is written in such a way as to invite different interpretations. What aspects of this production would you like audiences to know about?
N.P.: I’m one of those people that like to know very little about a story or show before I see it so I won’t give away any details. But then again, for Love and Information, it would be hard to give something away because of its form. The only thing I would want the audience to know is that the show is a series of short stories that one might call vignettes. Also to look for the love and information. Or be open to love and information, you don’t have to look. Just be open. You will have fun.
SesayArts: A play composed of 7 sections. 57 vignettes that can be presented in any order within those sections. Over a hundred characters of undefined gender. Sparse stage directions. As an actor, have you experienced a play like this before? What kind of challenge does it present? Conversely, what kind of freedom does it afford?
N.P.: I haven’t worked on a play like this before. As an actor, it has been a great experience to explore jumping right in and out of so many different realities. Because of the versatility of the text, it requires flexibility, which is a lot of fun to work on. With a play like this, although it is series of shorts, it is still one play, so as an actor, you have to jump on the wave and ride it all the way through.
SesayArts: What makes this a good time for Toronto audiences to experience Love and Information, in your view?
N.P.: In a world that is full of so many moving parts – theatre is the place to breathe together and experience story together.
SesayArts: Caryl Churchill is renowned for her facility with language, especially her ability to utilize it to extraordinary precision and effect. We are living in a time when we have unlimited access to information and various means to disperse it, often within a finite number of characters. More and more, the language we use on social media or in text messaging has to be succinct and specific. What comment might the play be making about “information”… how we encounter it, how we communicate it and how we interpret it?
N.P.: That is an interesting question with lots of layers to it. I honestly can’t speak to the comment the play might make on information as I am playing from inside of it. I can say that in working with the language in the play, I hear fragments of the play in everyday conversations since I started working on it. That is what I love about Churchill’s writing, how she subtly asks us to be aware of ourselves and each other.
SesayArts: What do you think the play suggests about the many seemingly-random, insignificant moments in our lives, and the meaning these moments might hold?
N.P.: I think the play asks questions, and that is what lingers with you. I experience the play as a Rubix cube, it has lots of sides and moving parts and those parts make up the complexity of our lives.
SesayArts: Based on what I’ve read about you, you are all for love. What does the play imply about love? What accords with (or maybe contrasts) your own views/attitudes?
N.P.: I experience this play and the language as poetry or a painting. My experience of the play is that it is reflective. In the simplicity and precision of the text, we see ourselves.
It’s true. I am all about love. So I do see a lot of love in it, but I guess you find what you are looking for.
SesayArts: What would you like us to know about the characters you portray? Which one(s) resonates with you especially?
N.P.: I would like the audience to take what they need from the characters I portray. Whatever they relate to, or what stirs a memory or feeling inside them. Each one of the characters has a special meaning to me.
SesayArts: The final word is yours. What would you like to add that I haven’t asked?
N.P.: Love is all you need.
News You Can Use
What: Love and Information by Caryl Churchill; Featuring Jason Cadieux, Sarah Deller, Peter Fernandes, Maggie Huculak, Sheila Ingabire-Isaro, David Jansen, Reid Millar and Ngozi Paul; Directed by Tanja Jacobs and Alistair Newton
Who: Audiences 14 years of age and older
When: On stage till April 29, 2018; run time: approximately 100 minutes (no intermission)
Where: Berkeley Street Downstairs Theatre, 26 Berkeley St, Toronto, ON
Info and Tickets: CanadianStage.com and 416.368.3110
© 2018 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya