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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: (Toronto) The Bundle

Bond's Bundle
After some bumps Ryerson pulls the audience in
by Jessica Wei

Captivating, that was Ryerson's production of “The Bundle” by Edward Bond. From the audible gasp from the audience right at the end of the first act straight to curtain call, it was impossible to turn away.


At some point, a shiver makes its way over the seats like an invisible wave.

“The Bundle” is about a village divided between the landowners and those who are fighting to stay alive. Those who have money have everything, and the majority who don't are under constant threat of floods and starvation. A ferryman finds a baby by the river and decides to adopt it, despite his family's poverty. As Wang grows up, she learns about the socioeconomic structure of her family's village and decides to fight the system. 

Don't get me wrong – this wasn't a perfect production. It starts off slow, overly fog-machine-y and the set-up of the stage gets confusing. The acting doesn't soar, but rather, chugs through the first 30 minutes, and the long chunks of dialogue often gets somewhat irritatingly over-enunciated. But somewhere late in the first act, something clicks and the audience is trapped into watching the story unfold. At some point, a shiver makes its way over the seats like an invisible wave. This is when Ayinge Blake, as Tiger, makes his appearance. 

For such a dramatic plot set in such a removed time and place, it's difficult to bring levity into a character. Tiger brings levity to the play – without distracting from the important parts. He's the hardened, bitter, Artful Dodger-esque ringleader of a group of bandits whom Wang comes across in her mission to protect the villagers. While the adult characters came off stone-cold and almost whimpering,  these new pickpockets and thieves are lively, playful, and determined. And this is when you will not be able to take your eyes off the stage. 

“The Bundle” is worth going to. It tells a story that is not far removed from the current political climate in China, and is delivered in a bare-bones, stripped down way that gives a certain amount of reverence to the script. The audience loves everyone they're supposed to love, they hate everyone the director wants them to hate, and more importantly, this play allows the onlooker to relate to the most seemingly unrelatable characters – the destitute, the dying, the young and uneducated who are out to change their world. 

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