The unsettling rough edges of curling on Canadian ice

By: Kirk Moss

Kirk Moss

However small and natural in its surroundings, Theatre Orangeville (TO) continues its thought-provoking programming by recently staging The New Canadian Curling Club, which sparked some very meaningful, powerful and extremely imperative conversations about who we are becoming as Canadians. 

The play strives to take the pulse of our collective-psyche and measures our levels of tolerance, acceptance and inter-personal-understanding of what it means to belong to the true north, strong and free, especially during these times of freedom-convoys, border-closers, and talk of provincial ‘independence’.  The play invites its viewers to grapple with who belongs, is invited to partake and perhaps, find space within our multicultural milieu based on a range of stringent slippery-categories and criteria. Measures that sharply restrict access to Canadian upward mobility for some, but not for others, on arbitrary, yet often, firmly, hardened and rigid grounds.  

More importantly, the production embodied a nuanced and dynamic way of story-telling through the subtle, not contact, courteous, yet revealing game of rock-hard curling as if to illustrate the magnitude of our responsibility to our collective security through cooperation, collaboration, sacrifice, and sportsmanship. This becomes artistically synonymous with active/participatory Citizenship. 

John Jarvis as Stuart, Zaynna Khalife as Fatima, Andrew Prashad as Anoopjeet, Chimaka Glory as Charmaine Norman Yeung as Mike Photo by: SA Creative

But what does it mean to be a good-sport?  Does playing by the rules allow everyone to get a fair-shake (pun intended, as a South-Asian character was repeatedly refused a post-game hand-shake). The scene gently reminds and smashes our constant self-aggrandized image of being ‘nice-Canadians.’

Taken in its most rooted context of artistic creativity and innovative thinking, the Curling Club and stage production, through its dialogue, props, setting, conflicting-ideas/ideals, captures the audience’s imagination. It convinces us of the need, the yearning and shear power of contemplative thinking about what it means to live in such a connected society – one that encompasses people of all walks of life, the pain, and struggles of suffering. At the same time, it puts forward a prescriptive notion for localised-introspection, but does not, and rather, intelligently, refrain from any advice-column, dear-abbey style answers, which would only serve to disrupt and impede the potency of its real intent. 

The Club, as an artistic-entity in and of itself, encourages onlookers to reflect on how the interconnectedness of our lived-experiences influence the way we live within or on the margins of the societies we call home.  Hence, the art of living, aspiring and tussling with the ups and downs of existence, aren’t new, and find their way into our midst, regardless of social status, or relation to a particular nation’s power-circles.

This exploration of smooth-game on ice is a thoughtful tale, wrapped with the poetics and politics of our times, and boldly challenges the way theatre and audience consider the duality of this shared experience.  Hence, instead of simply being stuck on particular social-issues, character-flaws, and power-imbalances, the play pulls us in even closer to its

The New Canadian Club

climax, reminding us to keep the flames of collective understanding burning and blazing like the everlasting Olympic-torch,  as we celebrate our ability to respectful disagree, yet find new ways to do so in an agreeable manner, devoid of regrettable malice and unwarranted self-righteousness.

Beneath the layers of ice, coatings of pain, and marvellous red, white and blue markings along the stage front, lives an echoing sentimental Canadianness about The New Canadian Curling Club, however unintentional in its realisation. 

There is much to be said about the crafting, editing, and reasoning behind the decisions of the writer, director and production staff, including the actors, that makes small-towns across this province, who’ll have the pleasure of experiencing this show, see themselves in ways they never imagined.

It’s unclear, how this production of friendly, yet competitive curlers, heroic new-comers, avid church goers, and family men will impact the way Canadians from all-walks better understand what we are, who we are, and yearn to become – an ever-changing idea of being Canadian.

Writer Bio:  Kirk Moss is a writer, educator, speaker and avid sport-enthusiast.