Review: The Flood

The Flood The Flood

I didn’t think a play about a prison beneath the St. Laurence Market in Toronto would be inspiring and the blustery February weather concurred. Yet I went to Leah-Simone Bowen’s The Flood and I was astonished. Not something which happens often. The play is a historical drama and therefore there is a fair amount of narrative to inform the audience. Nonetheless, Yvette Nolan’s deft direction created a seamless theatrical experience which highlights the inequities and horrors suffered by women in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in our country.

The sound design and singing are perfectly matched with the action and the surging drama of the play. Krystle Pederson starts things with an indigenous song that sets the scene brilliantly. Her monologue about her earliest memories and her fate in this prison tie together the disparate stories in the piece. Quinn Dooley is the most natural and heartbreaking of the women: her story of abuse by the wealthy family which had taken her in as a maid rang truest. Her natural delivery made her innocence most poignant.

The set was imaginative, particularly the hanging grills which I had hoped would be used more. It was also very imaginative to use chain fences instead of bars. Keren Roberts gave a masterful performance as a black woman who had been taken from her family and ended up owned by a native man. Her interactions and violence created a needed tension in the show. Anana Rydvald gave a masterful performance as a Ukrainian prisoner who was there because she had smashed some windows in order to breathe. Jennifer Roberts was excellent in her multiple roles and was utterly believable and heartbreaking as an ill woman imprisoned because of her imperfections.. 

Jimmy Blais delivered a series of roles and made a deep impression as a prison guard. His performance was flawless and terrifying. The group worked well as an ensemble. The only minor criticism was that some of the actors used too much of an oratorial style of speaking when the material could have been delivered in a more conversational style. This must have been a directorial choice and overall did not detract from, or slow down the play. 

This is a well-crafted moving piece of theatre which merits the trek through February weather.

The Flood, produced by IMAGO THEATRE, is at the Centaur Theatre from February 15 – 25. Info HERE.