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July 13, 2012, by

Artistic responses to the G20: Putting the picture together

ANTIGONE - Photo by Scarlet O'Neill

by Sarah Thorpe

It’s been interesting being involved in two separate productions that both dealt with Toronto’s G20 Summit. In You Should Have Stayed Home (Praxis Theatre and The Original Norwegian, Summerworks 2011), the production focused on the experience of the innocent victims – just some of the nearly 1000 people arrested & detained that weekend. In ANTIGONE (Soup Can Theatre, Toronto Fringe 2012), the Greek drama now set in Toronto during that summer of 2010, two sides of the conflict are explored: the authority figure trying to maintain order and civil obedience, and those who rebel for the sake of honour.

You Should Have Stayed Home gave the audience a glimpse into how those who were arrested and detained were brutally treated by the police, and how appalling the detainment centres were – unsanitary, cramped, and horribly disorganized; all of this coming from Tommy Taylor’s first hand account. Tommy had been standing near the protestors at the Novotel Hotel, and was swept up in the mass arrests and thrown into a cage overflowing with other men. While many police officers yelled at and mocked their ‘prisoners’, others were very sympathetic and knew how wrong this was, detaining people for several hours in makeshift jails with barely any food and water.

Sarah behind & left of Tommy as a G20 detainee - Photo by Will O'Hare

Soup Can’s production of ANTIGONE ties Sophocles’ tragedy with Toronto’s political climate during the G20. The story centres on Antigone, a young Theban woman determined to bury and honour her two brothers, both slain fighting on opposite sides of a senseless war. This act, in violation of an edict put forth by Creon, the iron-willed King of Thebes, forces her to both confront and defy his authority in the name of principle – a brave and noble choice with costly consequences.

Searing images of both the G20 and the Occupy movement are infused into the production, like the Chorus in combat positions, wearing gas masks and brandishing batons, and a chain link fence that serves as a place for protestors to hang their homemade signs, and also as a divide between Antigone and the outside world after she is arrested. Director Scott Dermody’s inspiration for a G20-infused production of the play came to him when he read a newspaper article about a pair of brothers, one a police officer, and the other a G20 protestor, reminding him of Antigone’s two brothers.

Being involved in both YSHSH and ANTIGONE has provided me with an opportunity to explore three different points of view: the bystander, the protestor, and the authority figure. There is still much more that needs to be explored about the G20. A recent Toronto Star article titled “The G20 Summit: Where Are We Now?” (written by staff reporters Jennifer Yang and Jayme Poisson, published June 29th 2012) states that the “Canadian Civil Liberties Association has consistently maintained that only a public inquiry can make sense of the G20 summit and its complex security operation … Instead, Canadians have been given a hodgepodge of disparate reports, reviews and inquiries … Taken as a whole, the reports provide snapshots of the G20 story, but no wide-angle view of the overall picture.”

The G20 will continue to fascinate and anger while more reports and reviews are written, and as investigations develop, I hope to see more artistic pieces develop that explore different facets of the G20 in all their complexities while we hope to eventually get “the overall picture’.

Sarah Thorpe is the Co-Producer of  ANTIGONE at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, and the Artistic Director of Soup Can Theatre. Click here for dates & times of the final three performances of ANTIGONE.

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