For their second production of the year, the Ryerson Theatre tackles The Bundle, a play about a group of oppressed villagers who rise against an oppessive government. Marina Ferreira reports
The Ryerson Theatre School is chaotic. Music plays loudly, a soundtrack for the students running in and out of the building, from floor to floor.
Actors, dancers and production students gather at the lounge on the second floor and share jokes, smiles, hugs and all the stress that comes with being a theatre student at Ryerson.
“Does my hair look okay?” a student asks right before entering a last minute audition.
“Do you want me to help you carry that?” asks another as someone walks by carrying loads of posters and props.
For one family of 18 students, it’s only natural that they feel so connected to one another. They’ve worked together for the last four years.
This time around, this group of fourth-year students are breathing life into The Bundle, a play by English playwright Edward Bond, from Nov. 15 to 24.
The Bundle, set in China, follows the life of Wang, who is found by a river by a ferryman (performed by theatre student Anthony Rella) and raised in a lower-class lifestyle. As he grows up, Wang and his fellow villagers try to overcome the inequalities imposed by landowners in the region. Wang eventually becomes the military voice for the lower class.
“[The Bundle] is about justice, revolution and oppression. It’s a fight of the people against a totalitarian government in pursuit of liberty,” says Rella.
The story of Wang and his people is the “story of any people who have gone through oppression” adds Karen Slater, who plays Pu-Toi, a Chinese revolutionary.
“The miscommunication between government and people … and it’s not just in China. The Bundle is mirrored in any society, like Mexico and the Middle East,” says Slater.
The cast is working under the guidance of Alan Dilworth, an award-winning director who has worked in theatres across Canada and in the United States and nominated Toronto’s best emerging male director in 2008 by NOW Magazine.
“His approach is very different from anything done at Ryerson before” says Rella.
Students are encouraged to “learn as they go” with a more hands-on approach to the play, and to work with images rather than words and sentences. Dilworth focuses on the student’s potential to embrace their characters rather than fitting their profiles.
“We don’t have to worry about adapting our voices or bodies to become the character,” explains Slater
Working in something like The Bundle at Ryerson is such a wonderful experience because it’s not always that such a big group of people want to put all their hard work and energy into the same project, she adds.
“Unfortunately students won’t have the same opportunity to work on a huge ensemble pieces once they graduate” she says.
Though the play isn’t traditional fare or a well-known classeic, Rella hopes that students will take the time to check out the Bundle even.
“It is an important story,” he says.
The Bundle runs from Nov. 15 to Nov. 24 at Ryerson Theatre. Student tickets are $14, while general admission is $18. Cash only!