Profound praise for Café Daughter, Blyth Festival Theatre’s Harvest Stage

If I could only use one word to describe my first visit to the Blyth Festival Theatre’s new outdoor Harvest Stage, it would be profound. 

However, since this is my first of four reviews of shows from the 2021 season, I will most definitely use more than one word to describe my enjoyment. 

You likely expected that. 

I digress. 

The day leading up to my visit was as hot and sticky as one could imagine – typical for Ontario in August. But as the sun began to set, a gentle breeze rolled in and I began the short walk to the rear of the Blyth Campground. As I was walking I looked around taking in the beautiful evening sky colours, and almost out of nowhere the Harvest Stage emerges out of the ground, as it is located in a low-lying corner of the property.

In the play introduction from Artistic Director Gil Garratt, he explained that indeed the stage had suddenly emerged as they only just broke ground on June 7. 

As the lights lowered, the theatre experience was lacking the calming darkness that usually hushes the audience, since we were sitting in the open air of the setting sun. However, since all of us were eagerly waiting to see the first theatrical performance in at least 18 months – if not longer – we didn’t need much encouragement to settle down to allow the show to commence. 

It felt like I had congregated to watch something historical. 

You could feel the sheer excitement in the air. 

Café Daughter began with a family reunion under sad circumstances. Something many of us can connect with after living through the pandemic restrictions which kept us from our loved ones, sometimes in the toughest of situations. 

The play follows a young Chinese-Cree girl name Yvette – played by April Leung and PJ Prudat – through her adolescent and teenage years, on her way to greatness in a time where racism was at an all-time high in Canada.

Knowing that this play, written by Ken Williams, first premiered in 2011 in Dawson City I believe it is fair to say that it was certainly something well ahead of its time. 

I can’t imagine a story better suited to help the audience reflect on the year we have lived through. 

After watching the play, which made me laugh and tear up, I found myself reflecting on the painful news from both the Indigenous and Asian communities this year. 

The play is set in Saskatchewan in the 1950s and ’60s, but I found it to be the furthest thing from dated, in fact, it was particularly relevant to the current state of our nation. 

In so many ways this play encompasses all that we have experienced in the past year and a half. The story itself reminds the audience that nothing good can come from racism, a lesson that is particularly timely as our nation is gearing up to choose a new leader, and we continue down the road of reconciliation, as well as emerging from a global pandemic that has led people to wrongly place blame onto the Asian community. 

I believe this play will serve as a great reminder to all that our nation has overcome some incredibly tough times, while also serving as a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done. 

I may have painted this show to be intense, or even rebellious, however, the story is told from the perspective of a child. At times the story was heavy enough to draw tears but similar to a child’s resilience, I found myself chuckling in the following scene. 

As a new mother, I particularly connected with the mother-daughter relationship portrayed. Yvette’s mother told her she could achieve anything she wanted at every roadblock that she faced, and in any circumstance where someone questioned her daughter. It reminded me of the power of a parent’s unconditional love. Something I feel grateful to have experienced, and that I strive to provide for my son. 

In so many ways this play struck a chord with me, however, the beauty of theatre is that each person in the audience may have a completely different experience. 

Based on my perspective, I think no matter your background you will find some form of enjoyment from Café Daughter. It is in my opinion a must-see, specifically this year. 

Café Daughter has regular show dates until Sept. 5. Tickets can be purchased online at www.blythfestival.com

Reporter