Last week, the cast and crew of the Next Folding Theater Company performed Song of the Seers at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The audience was presented with a series of steampunk stories exploring the chaotic lives of people belonging to two rival fictional cultures, Huffians and Icarian. The two “species” were trying to focus on individual survival rather than trying to find a rational and peaceful way to coexist because of corrupted leadership.
This was an intelligent feat by the artistic director, Ryan Griffith, as he worked on a recognizable topic and created alien cultures to display occurrences that unfortunately have happened in the past, currently happening or might be in the future for many humans.
All strained relationships, troubled individuals and fierce soldiers in this story were caught up by the leaders’ desire to possess the most valuable energy source, Aether.
Act 1 of the show focused on displaying the impact of tussle on the Huffians and their methods of retaliation. The high governor was portrayed with an appropriate amount of authority and vulnerability. The actor convincingly led the soldiers but the concern about a possible upcoming disaster was conveyed through his tone and succinct physical movements.
Several impactful stories were brought forward showing the chaos in the Huffian territory as they were trying to protect their homeland. Tragedy had turned a soldier into an alcoholic as he was haunted by the ghosts of his past, including his wife who he unknowingly killed during a mission.
Sadness and ambiguity were depicted when a Huffian father had to send his daughter to the warfare to meet the seers who could cure her nightmares and the mechanical noises in her head as the latter were also perceived to be predictions.
The end of Act 1 announced the start of rebellion amongst the people with one of their own officers joining the Icarians.
Act 2 of the show displayed the state of the Icarians and the motive of the leader, Steammother Odysseia.
It was refreshing to witness a conversation between a young inquisitive recruit questioning an experienced guard about the validity of protecting the “Icarian land.”
This section was one of the light hearted and intriguing highlights of the show where the young guard’s question, “Who is actually the evil side?” allowed the audience to understand the Icarians, as the older man replied by explaining that this was the only way he could fulfill his families’ needs, by protecting his homeland and the resources.
After the interval, the show emphasized that what the people perceived as leadership, actually turned out to be dictatorship. Odysseia secretly declared that in order to survive they will have to get rid of all other species.
The audience was thoroughly amused by the ending of the show because finally the humans had showed up on this planet: astronauts from earth crashed on the planet and they ended up in the middle of a fight, only seeking help to return home.
While the ending could have been tragic, it was turned into a more optimistic and entertaining piece by having the high governor questioning their cultural adherence on the planet, to which they replied “We are on both sides.”
The ending showed the humans a third party that could possibly require help in form of united efforts from the two cultures working together and finally learning to coexist peacefully.