A few years ago this April I found myself on the sidewalk across the street from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the pissing rain, dressed in a Banana Republic trench coat and far-too-expensive-to-admit Ray Ban glasses with ever-so-nerdy-chic thick black frames, feeling very out of place in a crowd of veteran anti-mining activists, all of whom clearly had thought ahead and checked the weather report, and were comfortably dressed in rainslickers and Blundstones.
We were there protesting the Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, whose worldwide campaign of oppression, murder, environmental atrocity, exploitation, and more I won’t précis here. We spent the day there, until the leather of my shoes began to fall apart and I couldn’t see through my glasses anymore.
The next day I wrote the first act of Potosí.
Potosí is an attempt to winnow truth from various kinds of political narrative. This is not easy, and speaks to the theatre’s true strength as a medium. The stage is an essentially subjunctive space; it is a place for exploring contradictions, double-binds, and paradoxes.
Here is one: an airport burns to the ground in Nairobi because the fire department sent to put out the flames was too busy looting the place to actually stop the inferno. Who is to blame for this? The fire fighters themselves, or any number of cultural, political, economic forces which have shaped their view of the world?
Or another: a young Q’eqchi woman is gang-raped by a group of Guatemalan mercenaries hired to guard the mine at which she works. Who is the true perpetrator of this crime – the mercenaries themselves, or the company who paid them, and turned a blind eye to their cruelty?
In other words, Potosí is a play which tries to explore the fundamental contradictions of free will and moral responsibility in the (so-called) post-colonial world. Are we the conscious author of our thoughts and actions? Are we to be blamed for what we do, or are we the products of systems many times larger than ourselves? What are the political implications of the nature v. nurture arguments? Is a shareholder in a major corporation culpable for atrocities committed on that corporation’s behalf? Are the circumstances of our upbringing exculpatory for behaviour?
It is easy for those of us who lean leftwise to attribute violent atrocities in the developing world to economic and historical forces far beyond the control of individuals. But as a philosophical proposition, it is frightening – after all, isn’t the CEO of Barrick Gold also a product of these forces? On what grounds can we blame one, and not the other?
The fundamental paradox of Potosí the fundamental paradox of the world: we are all both right, and wrong. There is no evil. Everyone is evil. We have the power to change everything. We have the power to change nothing.
Featuring a phenomenal cast – Nicole Wilson, Sean Sullivan, and Craig Thomas – the play is a controversial and biting observation of the world. Based on true events which have occurred all over the globe, Potosí is a dark parable on race, class, gender, determinism, greed, and the nature of violence. After reports of sexual assault at a mining operation in a far away country, a young lawyer is sent to mitigate PR fallout. There, she encounters the mine’s public face, a slick-talking but desperate man whose grasp on moral certainty – and his own sanity – are slipping with each minute. A civil war breaks out between the country’s two major ethnic groups. As the two are trapped in their office in the capital, they are found by a former miner, who takes the lawyer hostage. The two play out a psychological game of cat-and-mouse, in which everything is at stake – including the conscience of the world.
But we need your help!
Indie theatre is expensive – even the Fringe. The show has some fairly sophisticated prop/set/sound requirements, and all of that takes money. To this end, we’re launching a crowd-funding campaign to help us make this show the best it can be. There are some pretty great perks (including tickets to the show!) so please, please, please consider donating!