Children of God tells the story of Indigenous resilience and heart in the face of great struggle, namely the residential school system. It has been called a must-see theatrical experience. Tickets for remaining shows (running until June 3) can be found here.
Two days after viewing Children of God, the opening song God Only Knows is still stuck in my head, and it sends a shiver through me when I realize what it is I'm singing. This song perfectly exemplifies what made the show so powerful and haunting: the fluid integration of honest tragedy and skillful, emotionally articulate writing.
All elements of Corey Payette's show are incisive and congruous, from the eerily beautiful set design to the calculated waxing and waning of narrative tension in the script. I was very aware of a gracious, gradual application of pressure; being familiar with the show's content, I expected to be affected and vulnerable. What I did not anticipate, however, was the tender guidance through increasingly disturbing scenes. Without sacrificing the gravity of the story being told, the audience is allowed time to breathe between tensions, and is occasionally gifted laughter to somewhat lighten the experience.
The second half of the show carries a lot of weight. It bears down until the show's harrowing climax, the power of which became evident as I felt a deep, sickening sense of cold in my chest. This grip transformed into a quiet, rolling sob during Sister Bernadette's solo through to the final song, and I was grateful for the few minutes to gather myself before the talkback.
As someone who is endlessly hungry for artist's statements, as well as advice on how to process compelling, culturally-relevant work, I was relieved to learn of the talkback. Kim Harvey facilitated the discussion, with a handful of other cast members and audience members contributing.
While perhaps not technically a part of the production, I consider the talkback decidedly worth mentioning because of how solidly it framed the experience. I felt broken open by the show, ashamed, and Harvey's grounded and thorough facilitation aligned all of how I had been affected so as to energize me to, as she advised us, move through guilt into action. Regarding the erasure and oppression of Indigenous peoples, "Don't continue to be compliant" she said, before providing us with a few ways to participate in reconciliation efforts: Know whose land you're on. Educate those who may not know about the reality of residential schools. Connect with the Indigenous communities in your area.
It is obvious to me that this show was created and presented in a spirit of fierce compassion and hope, as is evidenced in the writing, the direction, and the provision of emotional support workers and a talkback. As such, this show is a salve. This is the kind of healing that we need and must decidedly work to carry forth.