Theatre Conspiracy, The Cultch Historic, until June 17th

My Two Cents

Photo: Chris Randal

By Lillian Jasper

Theatre Conspiracy’s Victim Impact inhabits a genre I’ve never really been exposed to: docu-theatre. The show recounts the ongoing saga of Rashida Samji, the so-called “Magic Lady” notary public who scammed a good number of innocent investors out of millions of dollars, in BC's largest Ponzi scheme on record. 

The story itself is, understandably, confusing (there’s even a glossary of terms in the program).  It can sometimes feel unsatisfying when, as a theatre-goer, one is used to having closure and an arc and none are given. Because it’s done in the style of the documentary and relates to a real-life court case, these stories won’t always have satisfying conclusions (or any conclusions at all). There are no answers, only facts and feelings. 

The script is wordy and filled with legalese (many BCSC interviews and court scenes are re-created verbatim). Some parts are dry, some unnecessarily dense, and the pace occasionally lagged. So much is packed into the show’s 100-minute run time, that there was on occasion times I noticed actors reading off the page, which is done very subtly but still jarring to see in a professional production. Nimet Kanji does well as Samji. We never truly feel sorry for her, which is as it should be, yet it’s easy to see why people trusted her with their money. She seemed kind, unassuming, and reputable. Allan Morgan and Munish Sharma are also strong in their multiple roles. Sharma is the most versatile, playing everything from a harried “financial planner” to the ghost of Carlo Ponzi. Morgan, however, gets the most human moment as an elderly victim, and handles it with delicate, Canadian stoicism.

Due credit must go to the design team for their contributions, particularly the work of Milton Lim (Visuals & Digital Media Design) and David Mesiha (Original Music and Sound Design). Joel Grinke’s set and Conor Moore’s lighting are paired well to create a sleek, effective, good-looking product. The show is at its best when its most theatrical; the fantasy sequences are entertaining and informative. The victim scenes are stark and director Jiv Parasram has directed them for the most part to address the audience directly. It’s heartfelt, but gets repetitive. Again, it’s difficult to judge harshly - this is a real and devastating experience that has left a lasting impact on the lives of too many people. The conclusions reached, the solutions and the sentencing are all startling and shocking.

For the most part, it’s riveting stuff, presented honestly and respectfully to the victims.  It’s understandable why Theatre Conspiracy saw fit to expose the story to the public in a way we might not have seen. They are presenting an exciting, different type of theatre. It’s theatre that educates, that brings the news to life. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s certainly innovative.