Thoughts on Other People's Children-Erin
One of the core things I noticed when I watched the first stumble through of Other People’s Children in rehearsal at Espace Libre, and then when I experienced it again in performance at Centaur Theatre, were the lines. Lines in physical space During rehearsal, what would become the modern minimalist set design of the piece, was demarcated with black tape.Tape that outlined the containers the humans are trapped in; sticky boundaries that reinforced the power structures mediating the relationship between the three characters.Lines in text as architecture When I initially read Hannah Moscovitch’s play I was awestruck by the writing. It is architectural, jarring, colloquial, sparse and contained. Loneliness is knit into the dialogue. The desire for connection is also there.The text builds upon itself like a Jenga tower. Each character tugs at the wooden pieces of the carefully built Jenga tower with a simultaneously deliberate playfulness and a terrifying carelessness. Set in a laundry cycle of stagnation, the play conjures up the image of a plexi glass house bursting at the seams with nettles and thorns.Lines as boundaries A line I find especially interesting is the one at the threshold of Sati’s room. Ben and Ilana, the wealthy young Canadian couple that have hired Sati to be their nanny, violate her personal boundaries by routinely entering her room without her permission. Another interesting instance of line as boundary in the playexists with the “his and hers” sinks in the washroom. This seems to further isolate, or perhaps highlight the isolation, of the couple whose relationship is disconnected and unravelling. Another line as boundary observation occurs with Ilana’s clothing. In the costume design by Diana Uribe, Ilana oscillates between wearing highly structured clothing that is reminiscent of her work as a lawyer and less structured clothing that Ben seems to associate with her more maternal side. In my opinion, her clothing (whether structured or unstructured) seems to denote a boundary between her different expressions of selfhood and womanhood.
Lines as borders A central theme in Other People’s Children is the effects of globalization on the world as it relates to migrant care work. Given that this is the case, I have been reflecting on the notion of lines as borders. In initial conversations around set design for the play, Diana Uribe spoke about how she was inspired by storage containers. She wanted the set to borrow from the structure of the containers to symbolize a capitalist society wrought with carelessness and consumerism. In the final design,Sati’s room, which hovers above the space Ben and Ilana occupy, most resembles a storage container. Sati is confined to this space for the duration of the play. Lighting design by Chantal Labonté highlights the borders of the set in cold blue and violet colours.Other People’s Children has a familiar Canadian reserve to it. Under the veil of thin pleasantries and agreeableness masking contempt, Ben and Ilana navigate their discomfort with Sati and their lack of knowledge about her and the country of Sri Lanka that she has come from. There is a form of cystic oppression occurring in the play that reminds me of the Canadian government’s responses to social inequalities and histories of harmful and racist acts of “othering.” Vague language, evasion of responsibility, lack of accountability, white fragility and diplomatic justification of violence are all behaviours I believe we see in Other People’s Children and with the Canadian government and our society. By showing all of the jarring, jagged lines in our lives, the play reveals the complexities of human life. It asks us to look, look, look but it is not didactic. It does not tell us who we should be but rather who we are.