Review: The Village at Firehall Arts Centre
“My soul is starving,” sighs solo performer Tina Milo. Drawing on personal heritage, she portrays a Serbian immigrant and former successful actor, who now finds herself a married young mother based in Canada. Stuck wistfully recalling the life, colours, and languages she left behind and struggling to make friends (a situation quite commonly known to many, particularly in Vancouver where Milo has lived since 2000), the rope circling the set is a simple but touching metaphor for the seemingly endless cycle of depression that she has fallen into.
Milo is a mesmerizing performer as she gently wanders around the sparsely-decorated stage. Whether she is toasting her far-away friends with wine glasses that shower glitter instead of liquid, demonstrating her beautiful voice via singing with piano accordion accompaniment, or literally dealing with her own sub-conscious (via video footage of herself), the mood is touchingly poignant.
Items of clothing from her suitcase are taken out, layered on and off, and discarded again, with a large red transparent shawl used very effectively to represent at different times her wedding veil, a bright “sash,” or draping her from head to toe when her depression rears its ugly head.
During the artist and creative team talk-back (a regular Thursday night Firehall occurrence), Milo admitted that much of the work was influenced true-to-life due to her own marriage and motherhood experiences, and that the writing process included emailing 18 of her closest girlfriends with 14 questions regarding life, relationships, dreams and “what the soul really wants.”
Towards the end, Milo’s character muses that actors have to be particularly resilient, given that they deal with more rejection in a year than most do in a lifetime. However, as she goes on to say, occasionally they do find themselves experiencing that one great moment, and that, “that moment is worth 1000 lifetimes”.
As she leaves the stage, its once-pristine set now resembling a teenager’s bedroom, she encourages us all to continue to find that moment and to “keep swinging” on that rope.
I want to reassure her that yes, I will, and that I really hope that she will too.
The Village is written and created by Tina Milo and directed by Dijana Milošević, and runs at Firehall Arts Centre until February 28, with performances at 8pm Friday and Saturday and also 3pm Saturday.