This was one of those ‘hard to take in’ and ‘difficult to let go’ experiences that happens sometimes when you see something so smart, dynamic, and meaningful in theatre. The number of metaphoric layers that are formed inside the first play written by Kevin Loring (Battle of the Birds) is utterly astounding. And Where The Blood Mixes feels ever so effortless, especially as it slowly dips its toes in the current. It swims in so easy, with the sounds of guitar, played by the talented sound designer, James Dallas Smith (Soulpepper’s Our Town) sitting on the sidelines, and merges with the mystical chanting of the opening refrain. The play projects us, casually yet wisely, into the deepest parts of our inner sanctuary, pulling us into the rough current with such simple force. Swimming and rotating in the emotional clarity of where two rivers collide, it’s no wonder that this 2008 play won a Governor General’s Award in 2009. It is also not surprising that Soulpepper Theatre, co-producing with Native Earth Performing Arts, decided to bring this subtle and beautifully intense play to the stage. For that, we should be eternally grateful.
Directed with a straight-forward ease by Jani Lauzon (Shaw’s Rope), Where The Blood Mixes pushes forth the lived experience of those on that stage, mirroring, we are told, the experiences of the playwright. There is an unpacking that happens on stage, one that boils and churns around, most tenderly, the colonial oppression of the Indigenous communities in North America and the intense impact that the residential school system, something we are hearing more and more about, had on the community as a whole. It’s breathtakingly hard to take in at certain moments in this lovingly caring play, but as displayed here, the insistence to take notice is as naturally spoken and understandable as one could hope for. The generational trauma is undeniable, and painful to bear witness to, but it never feels forced or pushed upon.