'TOKA' written, choreographed and performed by Indrit Kasapi

Theatre Passe Muraille presents world premiere of TOKA in a digital co-production with lemonTree creations

Brian Medina

Joe Szekeres

Changing an accepted narrative and how to respond to this change is of extreme importance in understanding Indrit Kasapi’s ‘TOKA’.

One of the performers in ‘Toka’ during the Q & A following the digital opening night online performance made a good point that struck a personal chord. Artist William Yong obviously pointed out that, while he is not Albanian, he had to complete some research to understand the power of this story and how all of us hold responsibility in any cultural narrative that is destructive and getting to the truth in imagining a new way forward from that.

Director of ‘Toka’ Cole Alvis pointed out during the Q & A that this attempt to move in a new direction forward can be dangerous.

But it is a necessary step to take to begin healing and forgiveness. I will not say whether that occurs in this production.

Indrit Kasapi’s ‘Toka’ (‘land’ in Albanian) at times becomes an emotionally raw and visually striking digital presentation. There were moments where I kept wishing I could have seen this production live. Andjelija Djuric’s raked set design of an upper and lower level is jaw dropping both to see and to watch the actors move on that stage. I kept wondering how far the set would have been placed in the auditorium at TPM.

Additionally, Indrit Kasapi’s passionate and spirited choreographed movements are bewitching. To hear the music and the songs and to listen to performers Indrit Kasapi, William Yong and Riley Sims breathe in their synchronized movement as one, especially in the dream sequence, would have been enthralling.

From the press release: “TOKA follows the story of siblings [Arjola (Kat Khan) and Ermal (Christopher Manousos)] who wrestle with the consequences of a long-standing land dispute which results in generational death and violence…two families living in the mountains of Northern Albania are governed by an ancient code of law — referred to as the Kanun — that affect them both in turn.” Alvis and TPM Artistic Director Marjorie Chan further connect how colonial structure of land ownership in ‘Toka’ also deals with treaties, promises, and what can happen when sacred agreements are not upheld by those in power.

This brief plot synopsis certainly sounds familiar within our own country right now, doesn’t it?

And I applaud Theatre Passe Muraille, lemon tree creations, Director Alvis, and playwright Kasapi in moulding and shaping these stories in reflective comparison to our Canadian cultural narrative of forgotten land treaties and promises.

Earlier I stated I wished I had the opportunity to see ‘Toka’ live. On the flip side, I’ll also be honest and say there are moments in ‘Toka’ that are extremely difficult to watch live but are deemed necessary to experience the plot’s impact. Cinematographer Kejd Juqo sublimely captures minute details on camera which I would probably have not been able to see live. Melissa Joakim and Maddie Bautista’s work respectively in Lighting and Sound Designs effectively underscored the rising, palpable build of tension and conflict.

Kat Khan and Christopher Manousos offer ardently passionate performances of siblings who fervently believe what they are doing is right given the development of the circumstances in which they find themselves in their family clan’s dispute with the Noka clan. Like Khan and Manousos, Riley Sims as Mark Noka delivers fervid work while never bordering into burning rage.

As the matriarch of the Noka Clan, Nicole Joy-Fraser superbly commands the stage in a bravura performance of a woman who has seen everything and still believes that hope can endure in these most dire of circumstances. Her solidly grounded and focussed performance is one of the strong highlights of ‘Toka’.

Final Comments: I’ve heard of Cole Alvis’s name before, and this is the first production I’ve seen of her creatively articulate understanding as Director.

I do hope to get to see more of her work in the future.

Running time: approximately 80 minutes

TOKA written, choreographed, and performed by Indrit Kasapi
A Theatre Passe Muraille and lemonTree creations digital co-production

April 21 to 23rd at 7:30PM & 2:00 PM on April 23rd
For tickets: www.passemuraille.ca or call 416-504-7529

Directed & Dramaturged by Cole Alvis
Featuring: Christopher Manousos, Kat Khan, Indrit Kasapi, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Riley Sims and William Yong

Additional dramaturgy Marjorie Chan and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

Set design Andjelija Djuric

Lighting design Melissa Joakim

Sound design Maddie Bautista

Composition, cinematography & Editing Kejd Kuqo

Costume design Rachel Forbes

Head of wardrobe Joyce Padua

Production Manager Giuseppe Condello

Stage Manager & Script Supervisor Kat Chin

Assistant stage manager Malina Patel

Storyboarding consultation Ulla Laidlaw

Co-composer for Mrs. Noka song Nicole Joy-Fraser

Production assistant Scarlett Larry

Camera assistant Shavo Dorjee

Scenic painters Anna Trench Megan Cinel

House technician David Fisher

Crew John Cabanela Joey Morin Laura Warren Meghan Speakman Matt Armour Aidan Shepherd

Creative collaborators for choreography Arlen Aguayo Stewart, Tavia Christina, Michael Caldwell, Dylan Evans, Virgilia Griffith, Kat Khan, Christopher Manousos, Pulga Muchochoma, Thomas Olajide, Jack Rennie, Riley Sims, Brodie Stevenson, William Yong
Accessibility

April 21, 7:30PM: English captioning, audio description, digital relaxed performance
April 22, 7:30PM: English captioning, digital relaxed performance
April 23, 2:00PM: Albanian captioning, digital relaxed performance
April 23, 7:30PM: English captioning, audio description, digital relaxed performance

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