— Production image
Pamela Sinha’s Crash is a powerful, disturbing hour of theatre. Sinha offers a compelling, committed performance of her own complex script, and director Alan Dilworth’s Theatre Passe Muraille/Necessary Angel production makes this solo show feel a lot fuller. The mise en scène is as much a character as ‘that girl” Sinha plays.
Sinha’s character, a young South Asian Canadian woman from Winnipeg, tells us, in fragments, her story of having been brutally, sadistically raped in the Montreal apartment to which she moved when she first left home. The rape left her severely traumatized, even suicidal. One major thread of the play explores her attempts to reconstruct her repressed memories of the rape so she can identify the rapist to the Montreal policeman doggedly pursuing her case. These are painful scenes, hard to watch.
The play’s other key thread involves the relationship that girl (the only name Sinha’s character gives herself) has with her loving, liberal family: her supportive brother and her parents. Her father has died in the year since the rape, and his funeral plays an important role in her memory.
Perhaps most important are the religious ideals her parents passed along to her. Although Hindu, they preached a broad ecumenicalism, which that girl fervently adopted. A key set piece in the play is a small shrine she made for herself as a child and brought with her to the Montreal apartment. Her god lives there, and bears witness to her rape.
Family and faith ultimately save that girl from despair, and the play from unremitting tragedy, but there’s no real resolution to any of the strands of plot.
The writing and acting are often very brave. Sinha spares none of the graphic, gruesome details of the rape, and she shifts from horrified, traumatized victim to a woman able to make herself whole again. She also dances beautifully, another way that girl connects with her religion.
Kimberly Purtell’s set is dominated by two staircases which allow for dynamic movement up and down as that girl’s spirits rise and fall. Purtell’s lighting shifts and Cameron Davis’ video help create an almost haunted house effect, and flesh out the rape scene even without another actor present.
But the most powerful presence in the play, besides Sinha’s own, is the terrifying soundscape designed by Debashis Sinha. Amplified almost unbearably loudly, it provides sonic versions of the crash that almost, but never quite, destroys that girl.