As you sit in the very warm space of the Lantern Church Gym, (a fellow critic brought an ice pack, it’s a good idea) Mark Ikeda will hand you a piece of origami paper. You can fold it into whatever shape you like as you wait for the show to start. This sets the tone of Ikeda’s Sensei:The Storyteller, an experimental exploration of the bright spots in dark stories. Specifically, Ikeda looks at the Japanese internment on Canadian soil during World War II and incorporates multiple stories and interviews from member’s of Ikeda’s family.
This production features movement in a poignant way. Ikeda weaves interviews and stories of his history with movement and it makes for a compelling tale. Ikeda opens his show by saying that he’s not very good at telling stories, which is the only turnoff of this performance because it’s not true and because it defeats the purpose of the entire production. Ikeda is a fine storyteller, the details shine through in his movement, and he uses the ‘bad storyteller’ line as a thread that he pulls through the play but he doesn’t need it. It’s an unfortunate opening, because the viewer starts out by thinking, ‘if you are not a good storyteller, than why am I here listening to your story?’
Ikeda’s exploration into his past is compelling and strong. His incorporation of movement holds everything together. It isn’t a perfect telling, as it isn’t quite as polished as it could be, but Ikeda’s message is sound. If you forgive a stumble in the narrative here and there, don’t buy into Ikeda being a bad storyteller. Ignore that part entirely actually. Just watch Ikeda’s strong movement as he dances the tales of his past.
Sensei: The Storyteller is part of the Calgary Fringe Festival. There are 5 more chances to catch it. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: Marc J Chalifoux