By Joshua Errett
The immigrant story in Canada is too often expressed in numbers–statistics, percentages and migration patterns don’t consider the human element of immigration. But under all the numeric detail, each new Canadian has a story to tell. For Lisa Codrington, a former Winnipegger and a Ryerson graduate, these stories of new settings serve as creative inspiration. In her new play, Cast Iron, the first-time playwright emphasizes narrative to tell the more intricate story of an immigrant in Canada.
“As a writer, my imagination ran wild,” says Codrington. “I created this character from Barbados to try to understand what brought her to Canada, to find the deeper story.”
A recent graduate of Ryerson’s acting program, Codrington is a rising talent in Canadian stage. She has earned considerable accolades for her acting skills, appearing at the 2003 Toronto Fringe Festival in The Interview, and in The Wedding Band, Romeo and Juliet and Criminal Genius at Ryerson.
Cast Iron is Codrington’s first foray into writing. “I like doing different aspects of the stage performance,” says Codrington. “There’s a different type of control (over the play) as a writer, but no less as an actor.” Cast Iron is a one-woman show featuring an elderly Bajan woman retelling her story from an old-age home in Winnipeg.
The woman, Libya Atwell (played by Bajan-born Alison Sealy-Smith), describes her journey from the sugar cane fields of Barbados to the harsh winters of Winnipeg–all the while carrying a large cast-iron frying pan. Although the play isn’t directly based on the Winnipeg-bred Codrington, its premise isn’t far off from her own experience.
“My family’s from Barbados and they immigrated to Canada,” says Codrington. “So I’ve always been interested in why they chose Canada, and how they found the switch.”
But the fictional account of Libya Atwell isn’t about Codrington’s family as much as the broader notions of immigration. “My family had their reasons for moving to Winnipeg, but I always dug deeper in those answers,” reflects Codrington. “(Cast Iron) is me asking the general question, Why do people come to this country?'”
With her current performance in Da Kink in my Hair and her recent appointment as the youth coordinator for Nightwood Theatre’s “Write from the Hip” program, Codrington’s take on the immigrant experience is eagerly awaited. Developed with the Afro-Canadian stage company Obsidian, Cast Iron will also gain recognition as it runs through black history month.
“During February, when everyone is thinking about black history, it’s great to have the opportunity to present a play about a black woman from the Caribbean,” says Codrington. Cast Iron runs at the Tarragon Extra Space, Feb. 16 to March 13.