A Review of UBC's Lion In The Streets

Last week saw the premiere of UBC’s very own production of Judith Thompson’s Lion In The Streets, and it was… well, it was play, that much was certain. The story followed Isobel, played by Sophia Paskalidis, the ghost of a murdered nine-year-old girl, who returns to earth 17 years later and sometimes interacts with, but mostly simply observes the cycles of ongoing abuse around her town. The story isn’t great. It is overtly melodramatic, lacks complexity, and most importantly, its main character is almost entirely insufferable. Paskalidis does her best with the character, but she at best adds little by simply observing, and at worst, interrupts the actions with dramatic speeches which take away from the at-times admittedly quite gripping vignettes. 

 Lion In The Streets attempts at daring, but falls flat due to over dramatization and an extremely large cast which makes character development or attachment almost impossible. As for this production in particular, it highlights some absolutely remarkable work by scenic designer Emily Dodson and lighting designer Rachel Shaen, and is an overall commendable reenactment of an unfortunately mediocre play. While the actors are mostly fine, they are stretched far too wide: most of the cast plays two or three different characters, and many are forced to play outside of their age-range which highlights their faults rather than their strength. The most egregious example of this being Lorenzo Tesler-Mabe, who is absolutely shiver-inducing and on-point in the very difficult part of Edward, but who never reaches the level of maturity demanded of a character like Father Hayes. 

 

This isn’t to say that the cast never shines: as mentioned, Lorenzo Tesler-Mabe is incredible as Edward. Drew Carlson, Cassandra Bourchier and Daelyn Lester-Serafini are all also remarkable in their respective parts. In fact, the play did allow for the reveal the absolutely awe-striking talent of Elizabeth Young, who, as Scarlett, a woman afflicted by cerebral palsy, reveals a talent for humour, vulnerability, raw aggression and vulgarity all at once. Her part in the play had me entirely on the edge of my seat, fully engaged and in absolute awe. If the rest of play had even a quarter of the raw talent and pure skill that was displayed in the tragically short vignette which featured her, this would have been a rave review. 

 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Lion In The Streets is a play which lacks focus and hails human drama as complexity. The few places where it does reach the heights that it aspires to are bogged down by its melodramatic premise and extended character list. While the cast is certainly talented, it is better suited to the more dramatic elements of the play, most of the humour falls flat and their best performers are rarely afforded an opportunity to shine. Still, if you can stand the often pretentious dramatics of the play, Elizabeth Young’s performance alone is worth the price of entry. 

Photograph taken from the promotional package for UBC’s Lion In The Streets