Simeon Taole’s The Space Between, which plays at the Atlantic Fringe Festival until September 6th is a gorgeous play, exquisitely performed by Taole, that I wish was running here in Halifax for much longer (and in a larger venue), so that everyone could have the opportunity to see it.
The Space Between tells the story of Winston, who falls in love with Celeste when he is nine years old, shortly before he moves from America back home to South Africa. The children become pen pals and as Winston grows older his love for Celeste only deepens, but so too does his sense of the giant space, both geographical and experiential, between them.
Winston endures horrifying injustice at the hands of a teacher in school, and lives in a place where he faces constant, blatant, racism under Apartheid. Celeste writes about attending a Detective Themed Summer Camp. Taole does a beautiful job in rooting this play in the relationship between Winston and Celeste, and the ways in which his love for her shapes his life, even while he is so far away from her. The underlying themes of white privilege and Systemic Racism are all there for us to unpack and to contemplate long after Taole takes his bow, but as Taole writes in his Playwright’s note, “it is [a story] of unrelenting hope and the innocence of young love.”
One of the most striking aspects of this play is how Taole explores the arc of Celeste, who although unseen onstage, is full of such nuance. We see, for example, how as children Winston and Celeste are not immune to discussions of race, but more innocent to the impact skin colour has to so many facets of life. When there is a break in their correspondence it is both a moment that anyone who has lost contact with a best childhood friend can relate to, but also poignant and thought provoking to see this experience through the lens of race. Celeste mirrors the white Canadian audience’s journey as we come to learn how much there is that we don’t know, whether about invisible countries or the dawning knowledge that we can never understand what Systemic Racism feels like unless we have experienced it ourselves. Our lack of understanding and inability to relate often makes us feel awkward and this unease often makes us distance ourselves even further. These chasms between people is where Systemic Racism thrives.
Taole gives a Tour De Force performance. He is captivating, heartbreaking and easy to cheer for. This is a play that needs to be seen. Go experience it while you have the chance.
The Space Between plays at The Rainbow Room at Menz/Mollyz Bar (2182 Gottingen Street) at the following times:
Monday Sept 5th, 4:05PM
Tuesday Sept 6th, 6:55PM