Wildside Festival – Final Review: ‘Empire of the Son’

The 20th Annual Wildside Festival, running from January 5 – 15, 2017 at the Centaur Theatre, is “the hottest two weeks in winter” in Montreal with its eclectic lineup of cutting edge indie theatre. With seven stimulating shows to choose from, we’re attending all of this year’s festival’s opening performances to provide you with a roundup of reviews to help you decide which acts to see. Stay tuned to this page for updates – new reviews published daily!

Read the reviews from DAY 1, 2, & 3 here

Buy tickets online at www.centaurtheatre.com
or call the Centaur Box Office at 514-288-3161


(Shows opening on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017)

(Photo courtesy of the Wildside Festival)

Empire of the Son

Christened as one of the “best theatre shows of the year” by critics and audiences after having had an extended and completely sold out run in Vancouver in 2015, this was the Centaur’s big bet for the 20th Annual Wildside, being the first act to be locked into the lineup and the last to make its opening at this year’s fest. To our great fortune, its highly anticipated Montreal premiere did not dishearten or disappoint.

Presented by the Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre under the direction of Richard Wolfe, ‘Empire of the Son’ is the brainchild of writer, comedian, filmmaker, and radio personality Tetsuro Shigematsu. In a tour de force solo performance featuring none other than Shigematsu in the flesh, he humorously recounts his compelling personal story of his upbringing as the Westernized child of Japanese immigrants, laying bare his complicated relationship with his late father Akira – a former public broadcaster for the BBC and the CBC. (Shigematsu Jr. is most widely known as the host of CBC Radio One’s The Roundup.)

Disconcerted over his self-avowed inability to weep and mourn over his father’s recent passing, Shigematsu investigates the likely agents of his stoic behaviour: is culture, genealogy, or the generational gap to blame? How can a man of such masterful rhetoric be so inarticulate in interpersonal communications, reticent in expression, and tongue-tied in the language of love? While their similarities may have been what ultimately brought them apart in life, it is Shigematsu’s earnest exploration of his father’s traumas in work and war in the latter’s wake of his death that allows him to come closer to finding a form of grieving and moving from resentment to compassion.

Cinematography has made its presence mightily known on stage at this edition of the Wildside, but no production has been as effective in the use and integration of multimedia as Empire of the Son’ has with its live video projections. Filmed anecdotes and documentary audio recordings featuring Shigematsu’s own family members also lend to the intimacy of the piece. Among other notable technical and creative elements that underscore the production are Gerald King’s atmospheric lightning design, Steve Charles’ immersive soundscape, and Pam Johnson’s modern yet elegant Japanese-inspired set.

Poignant and distinctively fine tuned in its unique telling of an all-too-common father-son dynamic, ‘Empire of the Son’ is a modern masterpiece and decidedly one of the highlights of the Wildside.

When to see it:

Thursday, January 12th at 7:30 pm
Friday, January 13th at 7:30 pm
Saturday, January 14th at 7:30 pm

Show length: 75 minutes

Buy tickets online at www.centaurtheatre.com
or call the Centaur Box Office at 514-288-3161

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