Coal Mine Theatre & Paper Canoe Projects/Prophecy Fog, created and performed by Jani Lauzon, directed by Franco Boni, Coal Mine Theatre, until Dec. 10. Tickets here.
Prophecy Fog is an utterly beautiful show that is a welcome remount from 2019. You will leave the production feeling that you have been touched in some profound way — if you allow yourself to be swept up in the ceremony and the storytelling.
The play is a spiritual experience, but not some airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky brand of pop mysticism. Rather, creator and performer Jani Lauzon, who is of Métis ancestry, takes us with her as she explores the myths and prophecies embedded in her Indigenous roots, particularly the stories in the stones.
The seating at Coal Mine is like a healing circle. We surround the performer while above us is a canvas chandelier evoking the image of a tipi. Panels on the inner sides of this circular screen, display, at various times, scenes of nature, both land and sky, as well as photos and videos that illustrate Lauzon’s text. The gorgeous set, both above and below, has come from the fertile mind of environmental designer Melissa Joakim.
In the middle of the seating is the charismatic, barefoot Lauzon, wearing a simple white shirt and trousers, standing on a native-design carpet. She is surrounded by wooden bowl after wooden bowl filled with rocks of all sizes. Hundreds of them, in fact. These stones, as she says in her program notes, are her scene partners, and together they perform the ritual that is the play Prophecy Fog.
It was her mother who first told Lauzon that every stone has a story, and the lion’s share of the play is Lauzon searching through these rocks, finding a specific one, and telling us its individual tale. Through these stones, the clever script also reveals aspects of Lauzon’s personal life, as well as greater myths from Indigenous culture. What a marvellous weaving together of the sacred and the secular this show is, including delightful bouts of humour and forays into enchanting music, both song and instrumental.
There is, however, a fly in the ointment, or more to the point, a desecrated sacred space, and that is the seven-storey tall, so-called Giant Rock, a monumental piece of an exploded star that landed in California’s Mojave Desert millions of years ago. For Lauzon, Giant Rock has special meaning because, as she tells us several times, her ancestors believed they came from the stars, that “we are star people”.
This arresting piece of natural architecture was sacred to the local Indigenous tribes who inscribed their petroglyphs on the rock, and used it to indicate their camping places, and held their ceremonies around it. When the White men came, they were given the Indigenous land, supplanting the people who were there. The place around Giant Rock was now called Homestead Valley.
Prophecy Fog contains historical accounts of the more prominent White men and how they interfaced with Giant Rock. When Lauzon and her daughter go on a pilgrimage to Giant Rock, perhaps the most shocking moment of the play is what they find there.
At the end of Prophecy Fog, we have heard fascinating myths such as why North America is called Turtle Island, but we have also witnessed how difficult it is for Indigenous people to cling to their traditions once the White settlers have touched the sacred ground. Kudos to director Franco Boni for his careful, detailed direction, and Brian Quirt for his dramaturgy on this marvellous script.
Lauzon, who is a ten-time Dora nominated writer/performer/producer, and a three-time Juno nominated singer/songwriter, among her many honours, is a multidisciplinary artist of epic proportions. At age 64, she has the wisdom and experience to hold us in her thrall, yet she never preaches, or throws out salvos of victimhood.
In Prophecy Fog, all of Lauzon’s manifold skills as a storyteller come together to create a captivating evening of theatrical magic.
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