Coartistic director of Surreal SoReal theatre in Edmonston Jon Lachlan Stewart wrote Big Shot after seeing a 65-year-old Japanese man in downtown Vancouver.
“I wanted to play this guy on stage,” Lachlan Stewart says. “I was inspired by the culture in Vancouver and the diverse strange culture of Hastings. There are all these different sexual, racial, and economic cultures living in middle of downtown Vancouver, and some of the biggest movies from the States are made there.”
Not only does Lachlan Stewart play a fictional version of the Japanese man on stage (Odosung, a florist), he also takes on five other characters.
The play, directed by Georgina Beaty, is about a shooting that takes place on a Skytrain in Vancouver. A 12-year-old witness to the event replays the event from six different perspectives, including a police officer, a woman, and a recovering heroin addict. The boy acts out each character involved through the lens of action movies.
One thing Lachlan Stewart is doing with this production is asking questions about how accidents of this proportion can happen. “I think what me and the team are discovering as we do the show, these kinds of shootings take place around the world, and recur over and over again. When we did it in Winnipeg, we heard about a 16-year-old kid in Detroit who was shot 18 times for not having a ticket,” he says.
“I’m curious how an accident of that proportion can happen and what kind of violence those officers have seen that would tune them to react that way,” Lachlan Stewart continues. “That guy who shot the kid in Detroit, he has a family and something he’s trying to do. Most people have good intentions. I’m interested in having a conversation about what intentions are and where they go wrong.”
Differences plays a role in the show, a reflection of Vancouver’s socio-economic, ethnic, and linguistic mix. “There’s Japanese in the show, when Odosung can’t express himself in English,” says Lachlan Stewart. “I had to learn it for the show. Hence, our Japanese coach.”
The play also addresses the theme of gentrification through a film-maker character who, for all his good intentions, “cannibalizes the events” going on.
The show was first performed in the summer of 2008 and has traveled to over 13 places in Canada. The responses are different, depending on each location’s familiarity with multiculturalism. “Taking it around the country has been wonderful,” says Lachlan Stewart. “Well in Vancouver, people connect to it differently. Someone from Quebec might interact with a Japanese person differently. We have that idea of we’re a mixed bag culturally and we love to believe that’s really great, but it comes with some practical problems. The ideas of this story can connect with people no matter where they live.”
One exciting thing about the show is its emphasis on acting. “It’s a ton of fun. The play has no set. It’s just the actor’s body,” says Lachlan Stewart. “It’s all done through the body. I come from a physical theatre, dance background and playing all the characters in this show is the funnest thing in the world.”
Big Shot is playing at the Centaur Theatre Wildside Festival (453 St. Francois Xavier) on January 7th at 7:30 p.m., January 10th at 7:30 p.m., January 11th at 1:30 p.m., and January 12th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $15.