Ghost River Theatre’s newest production Everything Is Terribly Nice Here isn’t exactly happy go lucky theatre. It deals with big issues and takes on big questions. It’s ambitious, to examine this conflict, to look at the complexity of religion and faith – and the aspects of belief that drives us apart.
The play tells and is based on Theo van Gogh (Clinton Carew), a Dutch film-maker who created a film called Submission, a piece that was critical of Islam. Van Gogh was assassinated by Mohammed Bouyeri, who shot van Gogh and then stabbed him with a knife and attached a five page manifesto to his chest as well. The play puts Theo and Haitham (a character based on Mohammed) in a room with no doors, one window, and a clock counting up. It’s here that Ghost River examines the complexity of this issue, freedom of speech, different aspects of religion and the facets of tolerance and intolerance and how all those factors drive actions. There is also a third character in the room, a woman (Alexa Devine) who floats seen and unseen by Theo and Haitham, illustrating different aspects of the narrative.
The play is told in a circular narrative. Meaning, it doesn’t have a development, climax, then denouement. It plays more like an exploration. It touches on the idea of martyrdom and seven virgins and deals with the perceptions of Islam. It does a commendable job of taking on the examination with a good grip of its complexity and this is illustrated through the character’s dialogue. But to a certain extent, this entire work would read better as an essay. It argues that if we put these two characters in a room and had them discuss their points of view, we perhaps would find ourselves in the same place. Ghost River Theatre should be commended for taking on broad concepts and producing risky theatre. But Everything Is Terribly Nice Here isn’t polished enough to be truly compelling and engaging. The fluidity of the woman moving from visible to invisible serves to illustrate the complexity of the issue, but her presence detracts from the base story line.
Carew and Momen put forward solid performances for what they are given (meaning, they didn’t really have much to work with). John Webber’s lighting design is meekly interesting on a bare stage.
Everything Is Terribly Nice Here features some great exploratory questions to deeply rooted issues in our society. But it is still in its rough draft for the stage.
Everything Is Terribly Nice Here runs at the Pumphouse Theatre until Saturday.