The Village is a powerful one-woman show about depression

Photo courtesy of Una Skandro.

“Hello, welcome to the psychiatric hotline! If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press one repeatedly. If you have multiple personality disorder please press numbers, 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are depressed, no matter which button you press, no one will answer. . .”

The Village is a one-woman performance by Canadian artist Tina Milo, who delivers a powerful message about why some women find themselves giving up their hopes and dreams, sinking into depression, and forsaking their individuality — along with their sense of reality. Milo uses different media as her platforms for interpretation, fusing acting, physical theatre, film, live music, and visual art.

Photo courtesy of Una Skandro.
Photo courtesy of Una Skandro.

The beginning of the performance built slowly, as the setting was established. Milo portrays an actress auditioning for the role of a depressed woman, and her opening words were full of pauses and blanks, revealing nothing of the woman’s identity. There was a sense that this was deliberate, meant to create a character that could represent anyone, including those in the audience.

Milo divulges the woman’s dream of being a famous actress and her hope for a glorious life. She reveals, as the women ages years into the future, that nothing has happened the way she had imagined — the woman loses her child and her hopes of being an actress. Her relationship with her husband has become distanced, and the love that they once had has dissipated over the years. Gradually, she reveals the fragile nature of the depressed woman’s inner state of being.

The play itself was a dense performance filled with multiple layers of meaning and symbolism — from the text, to the mixed media, to Milo’s choice of costume and props. A film was projected on the back wall and occasionally showed Milo putting on makeup or brushing her hair. The film’s full meaning and relationship with the play was up to the interpretation of the audience.

The setup for the stage was interesting. A rope formed the rough shape of a circle around other props, with an opening towards stage left. Within the circle were a variety of props, including two chairs, one of which was made for a child; a vertical steam iron; layers of coats piled up; an accordion; and a table covered in wine glasses. The encircling nature of the set up and the cluttered effect of the objects reflected the nature of Milo’s one-woman performance.

Milo was able to capture the essence of her character through her diverse talents in acting and vocalising. Throughout the piece, Milo’s powerful voice communicated melancholy, despair, and joy. Her voice crafted the layers of the depressed character she portrayed, and the audience was invited to join in the journey as she sang out melodies of happiness and sadness into the steam iron-turned-microphone.

Milo portrays the woman’s desire to change and her decision to find strength within herself.  “It takes a village” she says in her final monologue.

The Village is about more than the hardships and sorrows of a single individual, and truly a journey about life.  The performance depicts a variety of difficulties people encounter, and the potential for change that everyone has within themselves.