“You didn’t create racism? Why do you think you have to fix it?”
Writer and Director Audrey Dwyer’s Calpurnia hits the nail on the head when it comes furthering the conversation we have about race, class and what it means to be a socially aware black individual in today’s society. Calpurnia, a co-production by Nightwood Theatre and Sulong Theatre Company, is a re-adaptation of Harper Lee’s critically acclaimed novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” under a different light that instead focuses on a wealthy Jamaican-Canadian family, their Filipino house-keeper and a dinner party gone awry.
The play begins with the audience following the daughter, Julie, as she is working on adapting Calpurnia (the Finch family in “To Kill A Mockingbird”) into a better represented black female perspective of the 60’s (i.e. not written by a white woman in the 60’s). It makes the audience question their own opinions on race and challenges whether or not persons not of colour really understand what it means to be an “ally” to a marginalised group. And Calpurnia proves that it goes beyond just white people not saying the N-word.
Amongst the hard-hitting topics, is an underlying addition of humour that surprisingly amplifies the subject matter without trivializing it. Dwyer’s intent to have the audience confront their own subconscious racism was present in the questions Calpurnia seemed to be asking its audience to consider. As a society how do we better or contribute to these conversations about race? Calpurnia goes beyond just making the audience better social conscious thinkers but uses Julie’s fascination with proving her brother and father wrong as a way to see the contradiction in how a wealthy black woman could be so passionate about racism in the 60’s in which she has never experienced herself in a high-class upbringing. It begs the question, do you have to have experienced slavery or lived in Black America to know black struggle? Calpurnia is a thoughtful, well-executed play, Dwyer’s stage direction was immaculate and effectively executed enough to keep the audience’s eyes focused on all the little actions every character was responsible for, to bring the story together.
Calpurnia runs at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St) until February 4th. For tickets to the show visit their website.