My girlfriend, her parents, and I have started a tradition of going to Obsidian Theatre (www.obsidian-theatre.com) plays together. After an overstimulating lunch at Richtree (oh, so many choices and the ever present catastrophic risk of ramming into someone else’s unweildy wooden cafeteria tray), we headed over to the Harbourfront Centre Theatre to see The Polished Hoe.
A question on my mind before seeing the play was how Colin Taylor and Alison Sealy Smith would manage to adapt Austin Clarke’s award-winning and lengthy novel to fit within a 90 minute stage production’s constraints (I recently won a copy of the 462 page novel and have been waiting for a good time to launch into it). Could they capture the complexity of such a long story on the stage?
While we walked around Queen’s Quay after the play, our party discussed the exposition-heavy storytelling which was a little hard to enter into (but then, there were other irritations to distract us — the many late-comers who were permitted to stomp their way into the theatre well after it the play had begun, and the noisy candy wrapper crinklers sitting behind us — but that’s another story). I loved the marvelous acting and the “ghosts” from the past but wondered if more drama was needed to enliven the story. The big secret, revealed close to the end of the play, was given so little time that if I’d coughed during it (and the possiblity was there — I have a terrible cold) I might have missed it altogether. And the main character’s intrusive memories seemed to reach a too-simple and easy resolve (I’d explain this further, but don’t want to give away the story).
But in the end I think the play was worth seeing. It left me with many questions long after I’d hugged my in-laws goodbye. When I got home, I took Austin Clarke’s novel off the books-in-waiting shelf and placed it on my bedside table. And well, the play did inspire this week’s blog.