This is a late-arriving blog post, with my regrets. I caught a Saturday matinee of The Chemical Valley Project the other week; I was immediately intrigued by the welcoming nature of the space, with the lead actor speaking to each audience member as they entered, and inviting them on to the performance space to look at additional photos from the research on the project. If one had come to the show without a lot of context (as my two friends had) this would have been a touch confusing, but also intriguing. Certainly, though, it set a really great tone for the afternoon and the information and experience we were about to share.
The play focuses on the research journey of one actor/creator as he explored information relating to The Chemical Valley in the Sarnia region, and particularly in reference to two first nations people who supported and guided his journey. The script held a lot of information, which could very well have been overwhelming, however on the whole it was not. The staging and use of video to hear the actual voices of the indigenous guides was unique, and useful in terms of ensuring that it wasn’t someone else appropriating their story and experience. All of that said, for me the script & production felt a bit disjointed; almost like there were too many topics, as the manner in which they were organized left me feeling like there were a lot of starting points that weren’t always clearly connected to one another. What was the story this was ultimately trying to tell?
That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it; the visual aspects were really beautiful and the use of the space was inventive. My bigger qualm was with the style of the performance - after setting up a beautiful, relaxed, non-performative style in the pre-show, the performance itself felt forced and ultimately did a disservice to the material, for me. I simply wanted the actor to exist in the space, with the aid of some clever staging (seriously, the use of scale was magnificent), to share this journey with me. It didn’t need anything else.
All that said, I definitely recommend seeing it if it has a re-mount.