Foreword: The Ghomeshi Effect is a dance-theatre performance at the Gladstone Theatre from 19th-28th January and then at the Shenkman Arts Centre on 2nd February. Taking its name from the trial of Jian Ghomeshi, the piece challenges ideas about sexual violence in Canada and how the justice system handles it. I am very much looking forward to this performance to see how the piece tackles the issues raised, especially in a dance-theatre format.

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The show is led by an ensemble cast of six who work together to interpret many stories of sexual assault through voice and movement. All of the stories in the piece are from people of many backgrounds; including survivors, lawyers, support workers, and more. The result is an educational and moving performance about the injustice and inadequacies of the justice system as well as the many personal stories and the effects these events had.

Created and directed by Jessica Ruano with choreography by Amelia Griffin, the movement and physicality of the piece is effective; the elements of dance adds a fluidity and understanding to the distressing verbatim script of the show. The performance provided a powerful message to its audience and showed a lot of potential to be an educational aid for schools through the realness of the script and the emotional pull of the cast. The show incorporated many aspects of sexual violence including the direct response from the survivors, the importance of consent, and how often the abusers are not reprimanded for their crime.

I enjoyed the aspects of physicality teamed with the direct stories from the survivors although I felt the movement occasionally overshadowed the testimonies. This piece of the theatre showed great educational value for people who may not be aware of the extreme issue of sexual violence in Canada – as well as worldwide. Furthermore, the necessary changes our justice systems need to make in order for sexual violence to be taken seriously, for a more thorough education for children about importance of consent in addition to tackling issues of hyper-masculinity.

After the performance, there was a Talk Back, where the audience members could ask questions to the creator and director, choreographer, and cast members. This was a cathartic process for many of the audience members as they shared their own ideas about the issue of sexual violence. It was also a time where the audience could give back to the production members and give thanks for their hard work and for creating a piece of theatre that had such a profound effect on so many.

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2 thoughts on “The Ghomeshi Effect

  1. Thanks for this post Eleanor – super engaging.

    I am interested in the complicated relationship between catharsis and triggering. How can shows provide that kind of cathartic witnessing while being kind to people’s experiences with difficult subject matter?

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  2. I think it’s a very complicated relationship. What is cathartic for one person will not be cathartic for another – and the same goes for triggering subjects. It is difficult to provide a trigger warning to content because no one has the exact same triggers. I think the way to be kind and considerate about it, is to provide information before the performance – the rest is up to the performers and director. Nothing can be too intense for some people – whereas other people are easily affected.

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