Grace Lynn Kung in a nanking winter

Thursday Theatre Review: a nanking winter

If you are looking for something light and uplifting to pull you out of the winter blahs, then Nightwood Theatre's production of a nanking winter is not for you. If, however, you are looking to see a good, thought provoking production, where you'll likely learn something and have some of your assumptions challenged, then this is the show for you.

The show is split between two time periods; the present struggles of an authour publishing a history of the Nanking Massacre, and 1937 when the Japanese invaded China. Playwright Marjorie Chan plays these two times off of each other nicely. In fact, one of my favourite moments in the play is the transition between the present and past. Not a happy moment, but a very effective one.

My show-partner for this one was John, who's almost as much of a theatre geek as I am. But this show marked a first for me in my reviewing history... My show-partner and I did not agree on the show. I enjoyed the show, whereas John said it was "dreadfully sincere". The play is what John calls "an issue play", which is true, but it does it well. There are some moments where we're allowed to laugh. The characters have flaws; it isn't some black and white morality play.

That said, I take John's point that the show can feel fairly didactic at times, I just happen to not mind that. Although John wasn't a fan of the play as a lesson thing, he did say that it was a good production and that he really liked the design of the show - sound, lights etc.

The bottom line is that it's not an easy show, and there are elements of it that feel like it's not necessarily a story but rather a lesson, but if you don't mind that then it's well worth seeing. To say I enjoyed it feels a bit weird, 'cause there's a lot of horrific in it, but I am certainly very glad that I saw it, and although john didn't like that it was an issue play, it did result in us having a really good discussion afterward, which meant he was glad to have seen it too.

You have one weekend left to check out Nightwood's a nanking winter playing in the Factory Theatre Mainstage. I think it's worth making an effort to see.

- a nanking winter plays at in the Factory Theatre Mainstage (125 Bathurst Street) until March 16, 2008
- Show times are 8pm, except for Sunday which is a 2pm PWYC matinee
- Ticket prices range from $25 - $36
- For more information (416) 504-9971 or go to the Nightwood Theatre website

Photo of Grace Lynn Kung by Guntar Kravis

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