‘read the smoke’

kumari giles, in ‘things i cannot speak’,  with ‘young palms lined with old stories’ shared some stories as part of the Young Creators Unit at Buddies in Bad Times on the weekend. Memories of Sri Lanka, coming-out, the power of the haircut, of grandmothers, infused the piece.  Of war ‘you cannot erase a people without erasing yourself.’ kumari shifted from characters easily, perhaps too easily, as at times one wasn’t sure whose pov was being presented – which, in a way, underlines the difficulty of maintaining  any identity in our culture.

whiteshelf

a moment of shelflessness

Simply staged, with good use of red fabric – it was blood lines and restraints at times – sound effects and lighting. A simple, evocative performance in which I identified with the way we become ‘impressed’ with actions of the past – how we take on mannerism of parents without realizing it – I have my father’s aches.

drawers02

put your drawers down

Next up was Andre Prefontaine, in ‘(mE)dith Piaf’, ‘read the smoke’ of his past for us as he shared his recovery and his love of Piaf. Like kumari’s performance he shifted from character to character but his piece was about self-destruction and self-discovery. Funny, clever, emotionally vulnerable and satisfying. He touched on the recovery process without being industrial; queer life & the sex trade without being defensive or exploitive. An honest, direct & accomplished piece.

drawers

Ikea magic

The staging was as simple as the first piece but with a greater sense of theatricality – the evocation of Piaf via lighting was excellent. Sound effects propelled the story perfectly as Andre created characters with lighting, accents and appropriate finger-snaps. Looking back the piece also mirrored Cabaret: the musical about sex, drugs and self-discovery right down the Joel Grey like personification of cocaine. Je ne regrette pas le voir.

samples

a piece of mine about sex, drugs & rock’n’roll

Unmasked

background:

Hendrix: burning the midnight lamp

soon … I wish I was a merman

foreground:

messy coffee table

open bottles wine beer Scotch

weed rolled in papers too thin to write on

yet strong enough to hold a shared dream

midground:

three of us

Del me Kathy

share this joint enterprise

laugh at a phrase I was going through

hands touch to pass

the precious opener of minds

or rather the opener of pants

as Del loudly called it

his eyes on Kathy

she gave him a look

that said ‘see you later’

then left with her cigarettes

and the remains of the wine

‘uptight bitch’ Del laughed

as the door shut

he stayed

the supply on hand

held more appeal than

the supply leaving the room

that Jimi guitar

hooked its way around our brain

led our vision across patterns

my voodoo child eyes would wander

all along the corduroy

that hugged and held Del

he invitingly pushed the coffee table away

to make room on the floor

we had become so smoke soft

only the backless floor could

hold our floating

rolling

bodies

till we found ourselves

naked

I could feel the crosstown traffic of my heart

the sensation of his tongue on mine

the coarse grind of pubic hair on stomach

a move for a breath of air

to refresh the disguise of liquor

thighs hands lips

trimming a midnight lamp

that still burns today

but no longer needs

a smoke-screen

the bottled mask of permission

shelf02

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The Rajapaksa Stories

I heard Koom Kankesan read a section of the story Celluloid Visions recently at Racket at the Rocket. After reading my review of his reading Koom asked me if I wanted to do review of the book itself & then sent me pdf copy of it.

blue grid
blue grid

Let me first say my politics consists of one-liners as opposed to thoughtful opinions. Thank to media politics is mostly another well edited reality show – the world’s next top leader or worse ass-hole – which could be won by the same person depending on the spin.

Koom’s book is a cynical, no holds barred, set of stories about the Rajapaksa family junta that rules Sir Lanka – beyond that it is about the racial battle between the Tamils and the Singhalese – the sort of tribal warfare that has driven many cultures.

black horizontals
black horizontals

I loved the relentlessness of Koom’s ironic tone and vision of this family. One is dismayed, appalled but sometime sympathetic toward them and their foibles – from their fascination with American hop-hop gangstas to bathing in the blood of virgins.

At points laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes unexpectedly poetic, the stories held me with their easy and clear sense of place, character, and motivations. I particularly enjoy the subtext of the search for identity though popular America movies. I loved the male Singhalese Rajapaksa pretending, on a dating site, to be a female Tamil fashion model – these layers of sexual, tribal confusion are deliciously drawn and the results hilarious.

green spiral
green spiral

Of course Rajapaksa ends up in Toronto meeting with our own bombastic autocratic Rob Ford in the final story that goes out with sweet intergalactic swirl of Moonraker, the Scottish play & reincarnation (of a sorts). The Rajapaksa Stories are highly recommended. http://koomkankesan.webs.com http://www.amazon.ca/The-Rajapaksa-Stories-Koom-Kankesan/dp/1897275757

samples

Cow

My brother wanted to get out of the car. He’d never seen a cow before. Neither had I but I had no interest in seeing a cow. We were on one of my Dad’s Sunday adventure drives. He’d hop in the car with us kids – me, the oldest, my brother then our two little sister. Then drive without a goal.

There were some places we’d see at least once a month. Places our Dad knew we’d like. But at least once a month we’d have no idea where he was taking us. This time he’d suddenly turned off the highway – nice smooth and paved and onto a dirt road. Gravel pecking at the underside of the car.

Empty fields then forest clumps more empty fields. Up hills then down. A puddle from recent rain at the bottom of this last one where we made the biggest splash I’d ever seen.

My sisters screamed with glee and fear as my brother shouted “We’re going down down down. We’re going to drown drown drown.”

We didn’t drown but the bottom of the car scraped something with an ugly grind. At the level end of this lane Dad got out to look underneath.

“Looks fine. Nothing leaking.”

That’s when the cows came over. Only four of them. Not in a hurry but slowly they came over to the fence as our Dad got back in the car. He started off again and the cows seemed to follow us along the fence as my Dad drove slowly. My bother wanted to stop.

So we stopped. Me and my brother got out and stepped over to the cows. Their gigantic headed drooling as they nodded to us. The smell of cow shit was over powering. “They stink.” my brother laughed. “They smell worse than you girls.”

My sisters got out of the car. Eyes bigger than cow eyes. Each of them had half an apple that our mother had cut for a snack later.

One held it up to the nearest cow. Big pink tongue licked out for the slice and both my sisters screamed and ran back to the car.

We boys got back in.

“What did you think was going to happen.” I asked. “They don’t have hands to take food from you.”

My sister was wiping her hand on a towel. Smelling it and wiping it some more.

“Now you know where milk comes from.” My Dad said, as we eased back on the road.

“Milk?” My sister turned pale. She was never fond of milk after that.

a growing up green
a growing up green

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