'Prophecy Fog' by Jani Lauzon
A Paper Canoe Projects Production in association with Coal Mine Theatre
“The strength of this production comes from Lauzon’s efficiently calm narrative.”
Central to the production of “Prophecy Fog” is creator Jani Lauzon’s question: ‘can a site still be sacred if it has been desecrated?’ This, and other indigenous and environmental issues are effectively raised in the one woman play recently opened at Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto.
The DNA of this production comes from The Theatre Centre’s Tracey Wright Global Archive which encouraged artists to travel to locations and communities around the globe seeking new artistic platforms. Jani Lauzon’s travels took her to the Mojav desert in California to visit the sacred Giant Rock – infamously turned into a graffiti ladened tourist slum.
The story of this adventure with her daughter Tara Sky is included with other ancient stories and considerations woven into an immersive evening about family respect, human interaction with the earth and sky, and wistful memory.
The catch phrase ‘an intimate space’ does not do this set justice. It begins with a small red circular carpet, then ringed with successions of stones, then ringed with two rows of audience and above ringed with a circular screen. The audience is virtually part of the set. Lauzon moves in and out of the various rings pulling the audience together along with her storytelling.
“Stones are Mother Earth’s skin” she relates as she interacts with the various stones from large blocks to tiny pebbles. She introduces some as almost puppet-like with cute shapes or metaphysical stories. The stones are also a part of the rhythm of the play – as Lauzon tumbles the stones on the stage, they bounce with a harsh echoing sound enhancing the drums in the background.
Thus, we are introduced to the Great Stone (Giant Rock). Lauzon folds herself into the shape of a rock and overhead images display the desecration of the space and a comical interview with a man who apparently visited a nearby landing of alien creatures. This further indicts man’s indignities to Mother Earth.
The strength of this production comes from Lauzon’s efficiently calm narrative. She does not lecture with bravado – she weaves stories with soothing precision. No raging anger here – her voice and demeanour of placid serenity dignifies her messages and gives them more integrity.
Interactions with her influential elders and family members, including her daughter, are a part of the fuller circle of her life and her interaction with the physical and spiritual worlds. Overhead images by the design team of Melissa Joakim and Tim Lindsay offer an effective documentary feel to the stories of her relationships.
Two pieces of inventive stage craft stand out. Lauzon hands out rocks for different members of the audience to hold and reach up. The pattern of the rocks resembles the outline of Ursa Major. A final scene is created by seemingly innocuous pebbles spread about the stage. As lights dim, they create a sea of stars surrounding our narrator – Earth and sky reaching out to each other.
‘Prophecy Fog’ by Jani Lauzon
Performer: Jani Lauzon
Director: Franco Boni
Design: Melissa Joakim, Tim Lindsay
Stage management: A.J. Morra, Jen Newnham
Production runs through : December 10, 2023.
Tickets : coalminetheatre.com