The groovy 70’s have arrived at Canadian Stage’s Berkley Street Theatre with New. Produced by Necessary Angel Theatre Company in association with Canadian Stage and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, New is a brilliantly written work by Pamela Mala Sinha and expertly directed by Alan Dilworth. A story of love, loss, and finding community in a new country, New is a moving and gripping piece of theatre.
New’s set design certainly helped me firmly establish that my predominant aesthetic is that of the 70’s. From the lampshade to the shag carpet to every single costume worn on stage, I was delighted. On a serious note though, the set design by Lorenzo Savoini is absolutely brilliant. Three rooms, separated by LED strips and door frames fills the space. The apartment’s owners are denoted between each scene via projections on the bare brick wall behind the set. Elegant in its simplicity, the set was perfection. Michelle Bohn’s costumes take my breath away; the saris are stunning and I loved the classic 70’s clothes. They truly allowed us to know at all times where and when we were without question.
I thought that the story of New was a fascinating one. On the surface, it’s a story of a group of friends who are all immigrants and how they’re trying to navigate their lives. However, there are so many more layers to it: they talk about the generational trauma of the partition and how it continues to affect their lives, duty, responsibility, arranged marriages, the loss of a child, queer and feminist issues, all wrapped up in the lives of these seven people. Pamela Mala Sinha has created a compelling script which allows us to get invested in their lives both individually as well as collectively as a friend group. Despite some heavy subject matter, New leaves us with a sense of hope for the friends as they all embark on new journeys.
The cast of New is comprised of absolutely world-class talent in a truly ensemble performance. Ali Kazmi and Mirabella Sundar Singh lead the cast as Qasim and Nuzah. Their performances are extraordinary as their characters struggle so hard to find themselves. Sundar Singh starts out meek and reserved and we watch her blossom into her own woman. Kazmi’s Qasim experiences so many changes, and yet somehow we’re always on his side throughout the play. Author Pamela Mala Sinha plays Sita, with Fuad Ahmed as her husband Sachin. They both give vulnerable, emotional performances, the trauma of their characters coming through in every scene. Shelly Antony and Dalal Badr play Ash and Aisha respectively. I loved their performances as the activists of the group. Their ferocity and chemistry was amazing. Rounding out the cast is Alicia Johnston as Abby, Qasim’s girlfriend at the beginning of the piece. Her story is so tragic and Johnston truly gives her all to this role. From start to finish, these incredible performers hold us in this entrancing story and take us on a journey through a rather turbulent few months amongst friends.
New is currently running at the Berkeley Street Theatre until May 14th. You absolutely need to see this incredible work while you can! For more information and tickets, visit: https://www.canadianstage.com/show/new
The cast of New. Necessary Angel Theatre Company with Canadian Stage and RMTC. Photo by Dahlia Katz.