Early in Shaista Latif’s solo show The Archivist, a disembodied, cartoonish voice starts asking her questions about whether she wants a lawyer, disregards her answers, and tells her she has to swear to tell the truth using a complicated oath that involved spinning around.
The show—which opened on Saturday at Pia Bouman – Scotiabank Studio Theatre as part of the 2017 SummerWorks Performance Festival—Latif says, will prove that she’s Afghan.
I assume she means that she’s going to prove to the audience that she’s Afghan, and I don’t understand why she needs to. Why would we question it?
Latif uses videos, music, and narrative to tell her story. It’s an approach that I like but it can make it difficult for me to hear the performer when the the music or video is loud and the performer is talking over it. It was difficult on Saturday so there were things I missed.
There were also things I didn’t understand. I’m sure Latif said that her mother hadn’t seen her father for 10 years when she left Afghanistan pregnant with her. It’s possible there was music playing and I missed something.
Latif is a charming performer. She has a mischievous grin and a sarcastic edge, a combination I really like. She works well with the audience. I was impressed with the way she got someone to sit on the magic carpet with her and sing a song from Aladdin. Neither of them really knew the words and neither of them cared. Nor did the audience. I think we were full of admiration for the person who went on stage.
The show is essentially autobiographical, made up of stories from her life. I’m sure they’re all significant to her, but some were lost on me.
Latif developed, performs, and produced The Archivist. I think it could benefit from a more distant view—a director or a dramaturge—someone who isn’t so close to the subject. I really wanted to like it but I found it disjointed: too many stories without enough details combined with stories with too many details. It just didn’t come together for me. It might for you.
- The Archivist plays at Pia Bouman – Scotiabank Studio Theatre (6 Noble St)
- Remaining performances:
- Sunday August 6th 8:15pm – 9:30pm
- Friday August 11th 8:15pm – 9:30pm
- Saturday August 12th 6:15pm – 7:30pm
- SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.