SCRUTINY | Factory Theatre’s Absurdist Drama ‘Wildfire’ Runs Deep

By Paula Citron on June 2, 2022

Soo Garay, Paul Dunn and Zorana Sadiq in Factory Theatre's 'Wildfire' (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Soo Garay, Paul Dunn and Zorana Sadiq in Factory Theatre’s ‘Wildfire’ (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

Factory Theatre/Wildfire, written by David Paquet, translated by Leanna Brodie, directed by Soheil Parsa, Factory Theatre Upstairs, May 28 to June 19. Tickets here.

How lucky are Toronto theatre audiences? We’re getting two plays directed by Soheil Parsa in one season. Just after his magnificent turn at staging The House of Bernarda Alba, Parsa is back with a totally different animal — the Canadian English language premiere of Quebec writer David Paquet’s remarkable Wildfire (Le brasier, 2016).

For lack of a better terminology, Wildfire is Theatre of the Absurd, which makes Paquet a legitimate heir of Ionesco and Genet. Seemingly ordinary people are placed into irrational and illogical situations, with the play circling back to its beginning. I say remarkable because Paquet has crafted six utterly endearing characters who draw us into their absurdist lives, and hold us fast. The stress is on the word endearing.

The play is made up of three vignettes, with each of the three terrific actors playing two different characters. The first vignette introduces us to the very peculiar triplets, Claudine (Paul Dunn), Claudette (Soo Garay), and Claudia (Zorana Sadiq). We next meet the nerdy misfits Carol (Sadiq) and Callum (Dunn), with the play ending with a monologue by Caroline and her wayward libido (Garay) who has very odd taste in men.

Paquet has peppered his script with ironic and sometimes hilarious dialogue where seemingly idiotic pronouncements have the ring of truth, and absurdist situations become real life. That is the brilliance of Wildfire — the play literally sucks the audience into the chaos — and at this point we should mention the sparkling translation by Leanna Brodie which captures Wildfire’s inane yet serious content to perfection.

Zorana Sadiq and Paul Dunn in 'Wildfire' (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Zorana Sadiq and Paul Dunn in ‘Wildfire’ (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

In his program notes, Paquet explains that he started out inspired by Greek Tragedy and the words “curse” and “fate”, but substituted ordinary people in place of heroes. Over time, however, Wildfire morphed into the modern-day tragedy of the breakdown of connection, or as he says, “the feeling of belong to the human family seems to be crumbling”. Wildfire, it would appear, is Paquet “lighting a match” to counterpoint “growing obscurantism”. Like all great absurdist drama, Wildfire runs deep.

Which bring us to Mr. Parsa. As a director, Parsa is a detail man, and so is the perfect person to helm this play, because details abound. Whether it is the delivery of the lines (and you can hear every word), or the physicality of the characters, or the minimalist staging, or working hand in glove with set and lighting designer Kaitlin Hickey, costume designer Jackie Chau, and sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne, nothing has been left to chance.

In fact, such is the integration of the script, the actors and the production values, that Wildfire has to be taken as a whole cloth. Nothing can be isolated out because of how brilliantly everything hangs together.

Paquet, and translator Brodie, have given us a scintillating place to start with their clever script, which has inspired Parsa and his forces to create the effervescent and engaging theatrical experience that is Wildfire.

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Paula Citron
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