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2 out of 4 stars

Future Folk

  • Written and performed by the Sulong Theatre Collective
  • At Theatre Passe Muraille
  • in Toronto

Future Folk looks at the dark side of Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), from the perspective of three Filipino nannies enrolled in it, and asks who cares for the caregivers?

Sulong Theatre Collective members Karen Ancheta, Aura Carcueva and Catherine Hernandez hope to revive the debate about the LCP that hit the headlines last year when three participants accused MP Ruby Dhalla and her family of exploitation.

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In short, sketchy scenes punctuated by folk dance, the performers highlight the cruel irony of women often separated from their own children for years, while they mother the offspring of affluent Canadians. Some remain silent about illegal working conditions or even outright abuse for fear of being deported or imperilling their chance at gaining residency.

The show targets not just indifferent Canadians, however, but also the politicians in the Philippines who unquestioningly support the program because of the money sent back from abroad.

Sulong means "battle cry" and this collective's first production definitely is one. At 50 minutes, however the show is very slim, padded out with uninteresting choreography and populated by underdeveloped characters who, though occasionally vividly brought to life by the cast, are primarily there for the purposes of illustration.

Luce, played by Hernandez, is raped by her employer. Then, adding insult to injury, she is confronted the next day by his wife, who accuses her of betraying their friendship and threatens to call immigration.

The scene isn't as gut-wrenching as it could be, however, because it is too obviously trying to provoke outrage. A later scene involving an off-stage character who dies of cancer is even more manipulative.

It's not the big statements, but the small, well-observed details that make Future Folk engaging. Ancheta's character dialling an interminable sequence of digits on an overseas calling card, for example. Or Carcueva, playing a character who finds an early way out of the LCP thanks a whirlwind Canadian romance, attempting to pronounce her new Polish surname.

Future Folk will find a sympathetic audience, but I'm always curious why artists with a strong message to disseminate tend to use unpopular, dated agitprop to do it. An engaging narrative, or a well-researched piece of documentary theatre that put the voices of actual Filipino caregivers on stage might have reached a larger audience and made the battle cry louder.

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Future Folk continues until March 13.

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