Lara Kramer and Émilie Monnet’s “This Time Will Be Different” is a cross between performance art, protest and ritual. Performed by three generations of Indigenous artists, it addresses the problems with Canada’s reconciliations toward First Nations peoples, particularly residential school survivors. Using verbatim interviews, visual symbolism and immersive sound, this piece combines the lightness of the everyday with the weight of intergenerational trauma and the pending acknowledgement of our own complicity.
This performance also raises questions around the role of children in art, in theatre, and in community. It asks audiences to consider the work we place on children, the perspectives they offer on our histories and our futures, the things we teach them about themselves, and the things we cannot take away from them: in this case, a natural ability to find joy in darkness and to find connection across borders.
The audience is invited to stand on a balcony wrapping around the periphery of the room, overlooking the striking set of visual poetry. The floor is draped in silver mylar, like a tapestry of trauma blankets. Books the colour of dried blood are suspended by ropes, the lowest thickly entangled in knots, while the highest hangs precariously by a loose knot. Gigantic metal loudspeakers, which seem to belong on a prison tower, gape threateningly over the space. Below the balcony, three generations of performers sit on a bench. The audience can immediately feel their sense of kinship—children and adults side by side, waiting in tense patience for our full attention.
Ojibway grandmother and visual artist Glenna Matoush speaks first, addressing the audience as complicit in Canada’s ongoing crimes against the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. “Canada is not a country, it is a company,” she says, highlighting the role of money in both the injuries and insufficient apologies incurred by the Canadian government and its private courts. “They go after our children,” she says, while the youngest child on the bench swings her legs and blows kisses into the audience. With a final blow to the settlers present, Matoush says “Now you will die . . . taking us with you,” upon which we are invited to descend from the balcony to the stage below, like a processional descent into the next circle of Inferno.
Ruby Caldwell Kramer, the youngest child, begins her task of tearing page after page out of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The audience is confronted by many considerations: Can she even read these words yet? What does this task mean to her? What does she understand about this work that has fallen to her?
Young Ruby’s candid nature is captivating and adds unexpected layers to the performance. Looking straight at the audience, she smirks coyly and waves as she continues to tear page after page. Sometimes, she pauses to examine a picture on the page. Sometimes, she takes pleasure in watching the paper fall to the floor. She tries to rip a handful of pages at a time, but struggles, and concedes to tearing one after another— there are no shortcuts in healing.
The next youngest stands and starts to lay the torn pages one by one onto the mylar at the spectators’ feet. She spoons a gob of glue onto the mylar and lays each page down onto it. The rows of pages start to form a frame around the stage, or a barrier between the audience and performers. Soon, the entire ensemble starts working together to glue down pages and smear red paint onto each page, with a soft but purposeful repetition. The red handprints create a filter through which one can still read the words, if they dare. With the clinking of bowls and spoons, one might mistake the soundscape as that of a family cooking dinner together. Over the loudspeakers, interviews with each of the family members play over the live action.
The performers then “bless” the pages by shaking coins over them. They move about the space, fenced in by unfinished work, re-reading the words on the floor, as they fill the air with the deafening sound of money. Only bold Ruby traverses the border with her bare feet, throwing coins, while her grandmother looks on.
Despite the confrontational nature of the prologue and the painful trauma exposed onstage, the performers’ collective presence is one of joy, love, and hope. The piece opens up a hopeful space for the commingling of stories that are written and bound, stories that are spoken, and stories that are unspoken but lived, felt, and remembered. As Lara Kramer articulates in the program, theirs is “a story that breathes and lives, that continues to find new connections, other voices, that isn’t a closed chapter of our history.”
“This Time Will Be Different” is for anyone with a deep respect for intergenerational traumas and traditions. Spectators should be prepared to enter into a sacred space of kinship, where they see their own humanity reflected, but also come face to face with the real and ongoing effects of Canadian legislation and language.
The 13th Annual Festival TransAmériques presents
THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT
LARA KRAMER + ÉMILIE MONNET
June 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 at 6pm
Duration: 1 h 05 min
1182, Boulevard Saint-Laurent
514 844 3822 / 1 866 984 3822
Driven by her passion for contemporary art and writing, Cardineau pens reviews, interviews, and analyses informed by her own multidisciplinary practice. She formerly held the positions of Head Writer and Online Editor for Yiara Magazine, a feminist art and art history publication. She is excited about what this year’s Fringe Festival has to offer, especially in the context of theatre and politics today.
Find out more about Cardineau’s recent projects and upcoming exhibitions/productions at cardineauceline.myportfolio.com