SALMON ROW (2011-2013)

Employing close to 20 actors, stilted characters, large masks, original songs and a live band, Salmon Row tells the story of a place of plenty, the mouth of the Fraser River and the creatures and peoples who subsisted, thrived and profited from the seemingly endless resource of salmon which they found there.  As word of this treasure trove of fish spread throughout the world, the river became populated by thousands of people from as far away as Haida Gwaii, China, Japan and Europe.  This caused the delicately balanced realm of Eagle, Bear and Aboriginal people to be brutally thrust into the world of modern industry with gigantic canneries processing millions of fish in one season.

Our saga follows the stories of some of these people - First Nations and Chinese and Japanese immigrants - as they are caught in the nets of big business in the new country. This compelling and vibrant piece of theatre explores issues of immigration, ethnic conflict, labour history and memory.  This is also the story of the salmon and the constancy and mystery of its journey as it meets the need and greed of its human predators.  Whether or not this story will be ongoing remains to be seen.

"Salmon Row is wondrous, often funny and magical but the playwright's aim is serious; she hopes audiences will be "inspired to rescue what is left of our natural resources, rehabilitate our relationship to the First Peoples and welcome all immigrants who make this place home."

                                                                                                                         Jo Ledingham for the Vancouver Courier. Read the whole review

Audience Comments

"I would recommend this performance to anyone who appreciates creative and moving theater, and in particular history buffs with an appreciation for art, and some background in the BC canning industry. The Britannia Heritage Shipyard is a historical treasure and a perfect backdrop for Salmon Row.  Please continue to support works of this nature. Short story: Creative and honest."

"Last night 4 of us attended the play Salmon Row at Britannia Shipyards and were completely moved at the quality, the setting, the subject matter etc of the play. It was a magical night, with actual fishboats sailing by in the background. The play touched the four of us directly in different ways. All of us some how had a connection to the play."

"I attended your play last night and I must say it was OUTSTANDING!  Your technique- moving the audience- was brilliant but more importantly, you “spoke” to many very difficult topics (racism, Indian children and residential schools and internment of Japanese) in a way that informed and elicited empathy without being divisive.  I felt you brought us TOGETHER as a community around these topics.  Done badly, this could have resulted in polarizing the community. I was so touched by this play..."

"... reminds you of all the reasons you love theatre in the first place.  The heart, the staging, and the respect for the community it was rooted in were all fantastic."

The Production

The first production of Salmon Row took place August 18th-28th, 2011, on site at the Britannia Heritage Shipyard in the Steveston area of south Richmond. The audience moved with the actors from one site to another, becoming an integral part of the show. Mortal Coil's signature use of stilts, puppets, music, masks and actors brought this play to compelling life. The 2011 run of Salmon Row sold out and the show was remounted in August 2013.

Written by: Nicola Harwood

Directed by: Peter Hall

Dramaturg: Martin Kinch

Composer: Tobin Stokes

Musical Direction by: Steven Charles

Settings and Site Designed by: Yvan Morissette

Costumes Designed by: Barbara Clayden

Lighting Designed by: Gerald King

Video and Slides Designed by: Tim Matheson

Puppets, Masks Designed and built by: Frank Rader

Movement Coach/Japanese Consultant: Yayoi Hirano