In Focus: Chimera

Tarragon Theatre's most recent production of Chimera deals with the issue of stem cell research and all the 'hoopla' surrounding the topic. Both sides of the coin are represented as conservative and liberal views are hotly debated in where else? None other than Ottawa's House of Commons.

"As a play of ideas, it certainly focuses on an issue we will all have to consider in the months and years to come" says David Jansen, who plays Roy Ruggles, a reporter in the middle of all the mayhem trying to find out what is at the bottom of the controversial topic.

The play's ensemble cast flies through the narrative at a feverish pace and a huge amount of information is placed out there with nothing being lost. Wendy Lill's script caters to an audience that is, without a doubt, interested in current events and how they shape our society. In a piece like this, ensemble chemistry is essential and it immediately became evident that they possessed it.

"One of the other reasons I chose to do the show was that I knew who the cast were, and was eager to work with them. I've been friends with Pippa Domville for years and we had last worked on a Volcano show in 2004 called The Arabian Night which had been enormous fun (and a wonderful play and production). She's a very rigorous actress, tireless in pursuing the heart of a scene. Also, apart from doing workshops, I had never acted with David Fox! I am a very big fan and so that was an opportunity to be seized. I'm sorry to say, as the script evolved, there are only two very brief scenes we share, but it has whetted my appetite for other chances to work with him in the future."

The play's current relevance is also clear as audiences feel that they are also at the centre of something that is distinctly now.

"I think the show also has a resonance in the way it addresses the political fatigue of those working within the machinery of politics. It is Wendy's response to her own experiences on Parliament Hill and that is a timely and necessary perspective that we rarely get. To me, that is the most interesting aspect of the play: its insiderness, its sympathetic look at the community of MPs ("300 chumps") bickering and floundering and mostly doing their best to sort out impossible questions."

"Advances in stem cell research are proceeding at an exponential rate; the UK has introduced relatively progressive legislation around it (though not progressive enough for some in the scientific community), while the Bush administration has had a predictably Neolithic perspective and has slowed research to a crawl since 2001. And very shortly the Canadian government will have to make some hard decisions on the subject. So on a very simple the play asks us to have a think about it, if only because the politicians are as much in the dark about this as we are."
In this stage play we are treated to a story that never leaves us in the dark but, moreover which brings many issues to light.

Chimera plays until February 11, 2007 at Tarragon Theatre.

. Photo of John Dolan, Joan Gregson, Philippa Domville, Geoffrey Pounsett, David Jansen, David Fox. Photography by John Currid

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