The documentary play is alive and well with “The Watershed” at the Centaur
In its near 150-year history, Canada has had its share of crises, including a constitutional crisis, a conscription crisis, and even the October Crisis. But Canada having a water crisis? That’s what playwright Annabel Soutar uncovered while researching and writing one of her trademark documentary plays that was slated to be performed at last year’s Pan-Am Games in Toronto. And the end result was the compelling “The Watershed”, which is playing at the Centaur Theatre until December 4.
This autobiographical production is divided into two parts. The first part deals with Soutar (played to perfection by Liisa Repo-Martell, who does a great job as the play’s anchor) doing her research for the play as the fresh water crisis in Canada is ratcheting up, especially in light if the fact that the Harper government is about to close the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northern Ontario, and as she is trying to interview experts and government officials to find out why this is happening, and discovers a somewhat cover-up is going on. The second part deals with the western road trip she and her family take in a Winnebago to the tar sands region of Alberta as a means to discover why this fresh water crisis is happening.
With “The Watershed”, Soutar has taken the genre of the documentary play to a whole new level, as she gives a very human side to a complex environmental issue that not many Canadians are aware of. And she manages to tell the story with a great deal of factual accuracy (and breaks it down so that the audience never gets lost with all of the technical and scientific jargon), lightning speed, humour and a feel that you’re not just watching a play, but a CBC/NFB documentary feature of the highest quality. And Repo-Martell is complemented with a terrific ensemble cast, including veteran Canadian actor Eric Peterson, Daniel Brochu, Ngozi Paul, Laura Condlin, Bruce Dinsmore and especially Amelia Sargisson, who does a masterful job as she effortlessly switches between two roles throughout the play: Soutar’s 10-year-old daughter Ella, and environmental activist Diane Orihel.
With “Seeds” and “The Watershed”, Annabel Soutar has firmly established herself as a documentary-style playwright par excellence. In fact, “The Watershed” is almost like watching a report on “60 Minutes” and Soutar is the theatre’s answer to Mike Wallace.
By: Stuart Nulman – mtltimes.ca