A postcard review of Sansei: The Storyteller presented by Lunchbox Theatre

Writer Caroline Russell-King takes a look at Sansei: The Storyteller presented by Lunchbox Theatre as part of this year’s High Performance Rodeo.

Show: Sansei: the Storyteller.

Playwright/composer: Mark Kunji Ikeda.

Theatre: Lunchbox Theatre as part of the High Performance Rodeo.

Length: One act (60 mins.).

Genre/s: Drama (a narrative told by the performer through movement, mime, dance, recorded interviews and speeches). 

Premise: Tracing his lineage back three generations, we follow Ikeda’s ancestry to Japan, the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the subsequent internment of his family in Canada, and the consequences of all this in light of uncertain present-day politics.

Why this play? Why now?: As racism continues to influence politics south of the border and in our own country, we need to remember the past in order not to repeat atrocities.

Curiosities: I wondered if the play needed to go down the Henry VIII and other dead ends. I was curious about how the audience member beside me, who tut-tutted all the references to the United Conservative Party, was affected differently than the apparent Liberal crowd.

Notable line:“Don’t worry when I stop talking”.

Notable writing: The playwright notes in the program that it was after extensive training with Denise Clarke at One Yellow Rabbit that he developed his unique brand of dance theatre. 

Notable performance: Ikeda is an agile, innovative performer who can conjure a tale or three, even though he protests he is “not a good storyteller.” 

Notable design:Minimal lights and sound design supports the story in the black box decorated with colourful origami paper decorations. 

Notable direction: Pioneering his own brand of dance theatre, Ikeda seems the most qualified to direct his own concept.

One reason to see this show: Dance, according to Sir Ken Robinson, is as important as maths because “the arts spark our imagination and connects us to ourselves. To borrow a phrase from an old lager advert, dance has the potential to ‘refresh the parts other subjects cannot reach’ – or refresh the people other subjects cannot reach.” This is what is refreshing about this particular story of racism in Canada.

(Photo courtesy the High Performance Rodeo.)

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here