The Monkey Queen, currently being presented by Red Snow Collective at the Theatre Centre Incubator, is a play with music and movement, rather than opera or music theatre. Diana Tso’s play riffs off the classic Journey to the West to create a “journey to the east” in which a Chinese-Canadian woman explores her own roots and identity in a narrative and landscape half real, half mythical.
Tso plays the Monkey Queen with the immensely tall Nicholas Eddie as her foil. He plays characters ranging from a Shaman Woman to a Dinosaur King with great variation of voice and body. His interactions with Tso are fascinating because she is (very) short and he very much isn’t. The size difference allows for some intriguing physical acting and places interesting demands on Tso’s acting. Choreography and stage direction are bith by William Yong.
All this plays out against a series of projected backdrops (Elysha Poirier) and an evocative electronic soundscape created by Brandon Valdiva and Nick Storring.
It’s an interesting exercise to try and figure out how the elements of the original story are transposed to what appears to be a mythical, Indigenous inflected, version of the Great Lakes basin and then interwoven with the modern narrative. I’m not sure I got it all but it made for an hour of intriguing and visually exciting theatre.
The Monkey Queen runs until December 2nd at the Theatre Centre Incubator.
Photo credits – David Hou.