The Five Vengeances is a badass play

A queer, action-packed take on the Jacobean revenge tragedy

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2 warriors in kung-fu stances and fierce expressions surround a person in a white robe with half a skull face reaching forward against a yellow background.
Affair of Honor takes stage combat to the next level. PHOTO: Shadbolt Centre for the Arts

By: C Icart, Staff Writer

The Five Vengeances (T5V) is an action-packed play by Affair of Honor, a “fight and movement based theatre company” at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. The production combines the work of playwright, Jovanni Sy and multimedia design collective, Chimerik 似不像. ​​It’s a stunning reimagination of the Jacobean revenge tragedy genre, which, in the Jacobean period in England (16031625), depicted bloody portrayals of violence and murder in the name of revenge.

As a queer theatre kid, you didn’t have to ask me twice if I wanted to see a play about a queer love story. While it’s described as such, I think T5V would be better categorized as a queer revenge story. At the beginning of the play, Fury, a warrior, has already lost her beloved Bella and has returned to the kingdom for revenge against the Overlord who murdered her. She does so with the help of her friend, Shotgun. However, it won’t be so simple. The royal family is full of people with their own interests in mind. Fury’s quest for revenge is quickly complicated, and she’s forced to look at herself in the mirror and decide what’s truly important. 

When I got to the theatre, they had a content advisory for coarse language, violence, and sensitive subject matter, including depictions of non-consensual drug use and references to sexual assault. They also mentioned the effects used: haze, loud noises, and flashing lights. The play started with a bang, a dynamic fight scene to end all fight scenes — until the next one came along. One word came to mind: badass.

Considering the serious topics, I didn’t anticipate laughing nearly as much as I did. Before the play started, the people behind me debated whether or not the disco ball on the ceiling would be used. Spoiler alert: it was, in the most unexpected and hilarious way. 

The relatively minimalist set included two warped walls reminiscent of American Ninja Warrior, only shorter. That didn’t stop me from being impressed by the ease with which the actors ran up and slid down them. Much of the decor was digital, enabling them to use dynamic effects to enhance the numerous fight scenes.

T5V is over two hours long, but there isn’t a dull moment. Constant twists and engaging fight scenes made time breeze by. The play is described as giving “the feel of 1970’s kung-fu cinema,” and I couldn’t agree more. The music and special effects made it feel like I was watching an action movie all the way down to the slow-motion fighting. The effects highlighted how good the actors were at stage fighting because the lights and sounds aligned with their fast-paced moves. On top of hand-to-hand combat, they used a variety of weapons including swords, ropes, and ninja stars. 

The play reminded me how creative folks can be with theatre and reignited my admiration for the artform. I loved every second and had so much fun laughing and reacting with the crowd. Most importantly, seeing badass queer characters on stage telling stories that don’t center around being queer was so refreshing.