By Amrita Kumar-Ratta
TORONTO: The play’s synopsis reads, “A society brought to the tipping point by one man’s greed faces impending doom and an uncertain future.” A dynamic work of physical theatre, Theatre Gargantua’s show Avaricious is aptly titled. Directed by the company’s artistic director Jacquie P.A. Thomas, written by Michael Spence, and featuring Pam Patel, Michelle Polak and Michael Spence, the world premiere is a timely exploration of 21st century materialism entwined with the rapid environmental degradation that is sweeping our world today.
Performed with innovative movement and dark humour, Avaricious takes its inspiration from the controversial story of Antilia – the world’s largest and most expensive house, occupying 26 stories, overlooking the slums of Mumbai and built on land illegally acquired from a former orphanage. With this real-world example of incredible wealth amidst poverty, at a moment when Oxfam estimates that approximately 85 people hold more wealth than half of the world’s population, Theatre Gargantua creatively delivers its somber message around increasing economic disparity in an environmentally distressed world.
Satire and symbolism together shape the darkly comic tone of Avaricious. Along with the devilish allure and revealing dialogue of the play’s chorus, an ironic Ted Talk about the psychological and biochemical nature of greed halfway through the play effectively captivates and confuses the audience, demanding self-reflection, however uncomfortable. Moreover, the company cleverly plays with the multilayered concept of greed in its creative development of complex characters, such as Jimmy, an opportunistic homeless man whose intentions grow ever darker as the play goes on.
Along with its original concept design, the play’s production value, direction and set design is nothing short of innovative. With a melody of physical movement, voice work and multimedia gracing the stage at various intervals, Avaricious demands courage and introspection from its audience members, leaving nothing out as it ponders the multiple faces of greed in today’s world.
Avaricious runs at the Theatre Passe-Muraille Mainspace in Toronto until November 21. To purchase tickets, visit www.theatregargantua.ca or call Arts Box Office at 416-504-7529.