Live theatre is perhaps the most intimate of the arts, but for the cast and crew of Purge, the nature of the production required the services of an intimacy coach to confront the emotions raised by the play.
Purge, which makes its Canadian debut during a three-night run beginning Thursday at Keyano Theatre, confronts the subjects of human trafficking and sexual abuse, as well as the Soviet occupation in Estonia. The first production back following COVID-19 restrictions being lifted for Theatre; Just Because also features mature dialogue. According to lead actor Jenny Price, the central characters are truly awful to each other.
The strain of the production, coupled with rehearsing the play during COVID-19 restrictions, meant that intimacy coach Alexandra Durocher was employed to assist actors with their mental health.
“We’ve done a lot of work, not just to maintain physical safety [due to COVID], but for our mental and emotional safety,” said Price. “We did this so we aren’t taking these words and subject matter that we have said to each other and subconsciously taking it home with us following rehearsal or production.”
Written by Finnish author Sofi Oksanen, Purge follows Price’s character Aliide Truu in the 1990s, when she finds a traumatized girl, Zara, played by Devki Patel, in her front yard. A victim of sex trafficking, Zara’s appearance prompts Aliide to reflect on her life, causing flashbacks to the 1950s and the years in Estonia following the Soviets’ World War II occupation.
Director and producer Hanna Fridhed drew on her background in social work in mounting this production of Purge. She said that this type of deep emotional production is not often seen in the Fort McMurray theatre community.
“We do a lot of musicals and farces, which are great, but we don’t always see dramas of this nature that touches on and explores more deep human emotions and connections,” said Fridhed. “It’s a fantastic show with complex characters and I wanted to take this opportunity to bring something like this to Fort McMurray.”
With COVID-19 restrictions still limiting seating at Keyano Theatre to only 30 percent occupancy, the production will also be available virtually on demand from July 15-25. With tickets already sold in countries as far as Australia, Fridhed said the on-demand availability of the play opens Fort McMurray theatre to a global audience.
“We always brag about the theatre and arts community in Fort McMurray and very few people who haven’t been here believe us,” said Fridhed. “This is a great opportunity to showcase that it’s quite diverse up here and we do some very interesting things.”
Purge is scheduled for July 15-17, at 8 p.m., at Keyano Theatre. For tickets or access to the virtual performance, visit the Theatre; Just Because website.
Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today