SEE Productions, an emerging theatre production company in London, will be producing Michael Redhill’s award-winning play “Goodness” this March at the Arts Project. The story begins when a woman named Althea tells a writer, in confidence, a horrifying story of injustice and massacre. “Goodness” is the writer contravening his promise never to repeat Althea’s secret.
SEE, founded by Western University graduate Shannon Charnock, is devoted to staging morally challenging and thought-provoking plays in an effort to enlighten audience members while opening their “hearts and minds”. The production company’s debut show, “Goodness”, is certainly no exception, as it thematizes the morality of genocide, guilt, survival, story-telling, the blurred lines between good and evil, and the value of memory.
The sole survivor of a genocide, which executed her entire family, Althea is enlisted to “serve her country” and become a prison guard tending to the alleged war criminal responsible for the genocide, and the murder of her family. The man on trial for these crimes, Mathias Todd, however, has Alzheimer’s disease and is unable to remember the past thirty years of his life. The prosecuting attorney, who believes that Todd is faking his illness in order to deflect culpability, has an uncomfortable attraction to the offender’s daughter. As complex relationships develop between these characters, tension builds. Althea, the prison guard, witnesses the complicated aspects of this trial and, years later, imparts her account of the events to Redhill.
Charnock was first introduced to “Goodness” when she read it two years ago in a Modern Drama class at Western. “I immediately fell in love with it – it’s smart. It balances humour and drama really well,” Charnock comments. She adds that she had difficulty choosing the “right” way to direct the play, because every time she read the script she was left with a different opinion and a new handful of questions. “That’s the frustrating but really beautiful thing about this play: it doesn’t presuppose the audience is stupid and needs to be taught a moral lesson… It challenges its viewers to question themselves and the world they live in,” states Charnock.
Following is a brief interview with Shannon Charnock, owner and founder of SEE productions, and director of “Goodness”.
What are some of the major themes in “Goodness”?
One of its major themes is morality. Nothing is black and white and the characters all sooner or later begin to doubt themselves. It makes us take a look at ourselves, too, and our own morals, and would we feel the same way in a different context, in a different time and place? In that sense, it’s a very humanistic play.
Another major theme is identity. The character all struggle with it: what makes them who they are? Family, nationality, profession, morals? And their experiences of genocide which range from victim, to survivor, to killer. Each character sees themselves in one light at the beginning of the play, and throughout the course of the play their sense of self really gets shaken up.
It also asks questions about responsibility: Should people be held responsible for their thoughts or their actions? Is the person who manipulated another into murdering people as responsible as the person who physically committed the crime? It also presents the problem of authorial responsibility, and who has the “right” to tell a story. What is more important in a story: facts, or the emotional/psychological impact of genocide on individuals?
Why did you decide that “Goodness” would be SEE’s debut show?
The play knows that its audience is smart. It challenges its viewers to question themselves and the world they live in. It doesn’t allow you to just sit back and watch it because it makes you complicit. It asks us to ask ourselves in a really difficult, ethically tough situation, “What would I do?”
The play runs at 8pm March 14th through March 17th at the Arts Project in the heart of downtown London. There will also be a 1pm matinee on Saturday March 17th. Tickets are $12.00 for students and $15.00 for adults.