Z : A Meditation on Oppression, Desire and Freedom


72 pages
ISBN 1-55050-080-5
DDC C812'.54





Photos by A.K. Photos
Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is assistant director of libraries at the University of
Saskatchewan and président, La Troupe du Jour, Regina Summer Stage.


Governor General’s Award–winning poet Anne Szumigalski is no
stranger to the dramatic form, having collaborated with Terrence Heath
on four radio dramas and a poetry collection for radio voices. She also
brings to her first play her experience with the British Red Cross when
they entered the German concentration camps at the end of World War II.
As the subtitle and death-camp setting suggest, Z is a meditation on
human oppression in an ambience of total bleakness.

Szumigalski’s poetic drama and the production it engendered are freer
than usual from theatrical “rules.” Z is quintessentially a
soundscape with dance. Choral refrains echo key phrases from particular
confessionals. One character’s story-telling assumes a mantle of
parable or myth. The inclusion of an interview with the author and
director gives valuable insight into the development of the premiere
production and the gelling of the text. It also explains the peculiarly
impressionistic and fluid stage and scenic directions, which evoke many
either/or possibilities and often pose outright questions (“Are they
making love, or are they in the throes of death?”).

Szumigalski has not written just another play about the Holocaust; she
has managed to imprint her play with the lot of humanity. Within the
camp, which in the second act becomes a memorial garden where history
resonates in macabre discord (a tourist walking in high-heeled shoes
complains that her pinched feet are the ultimate in agony), one glimpses
pandemic oppression far beyond race, gender, and the specifics of this
century. The eponymous Z stands for “Zigeuner,” the designation for
gypsy prisoners.


Szumigalski, Anne., “Z : A Meditation on Oppression, Desire and Freedom,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1559.