Theatre Review: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, The Studio, Edinburgh

Inuit performer Laakkuluk rages against colonial attitudes. Picture: Jeremy Mimnaugh
Inuit performer Laakkuluk rages against colonial attitudes. Picture: Jeremy Mimnaugh
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Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and theatre-maker Evalyn Parry deliver an environmental, anti-colonial klaxon-call.

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, The Studio, Edinburgh ****

Images of a world cracking and shifting beneath our feet are ever-present around this year’s Edinburgh Festival, and there are no people on earth to whom that sense of instability and change is more real than the Inuit people of the far north, whose icy world is now melting around them, and who have already faced a fight to survive during two centuries of aggressive colonisation from the south.

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Canada is one of the main sites of the struggle to find new ways of peaceful cohabitation between colonised and colonisers and this glorious show from Buddies In Bad Times of Toronto – a rich combination of folk night, storytelling session, theatre show and laid-back dialogue with the audience, presented as part of Kate McGrath’s You Are Here programme – is all about that north-south conversation, as articulated by gifted Toronto singer-songwriter Evalyn Parry, and Inuit artist and performer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory.

For the most part, over almost two hours, the conversation is conducted in gentle, amicable style, although with a hard edge of meaning and history symbolised by Laakkaluk’s twin half-moon knives, whose sharp edge or face – Kiinalik – enables survival in the north.

There is a disturbing ten-minute sequence, though, in which she offers us a glimpse of the roaring, mocking, rowdy, aggressive and undefeated female energy of northern women that also makes their survival possible and briefly shakes her Edinburgh audience to the core with a vision of the sheer rage against colonial attitudes that seems set to be one of the dominant themes of the You Are Here Season, and of this year’s Festival and Fringe.

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