Michelle Todd’s Deep Fried Curried Perogies is just as complicated as the title sounds.
One thing is clear: Michelle, a woman of Filipino and Jamaican heritage is about to have a baby with British-Ukrainian Bob. This realization sets into motion a montage of moments in Michelle’s life that have contributed to her sense of identity.
The story itself is complex and non-linear, much the way your brain jumps around and makes connections between various experiences, memories and ideas when thinking about how you came to be the person you are or believe the things you do. We see moments of shame and pride. We hear about the memories and experiences Michelle inherited from both of her parents. We hear her being asked where she’s from, no like, where are your parents from? We hear the slurs and the casual racialized language used in the day-to-day banter of teenagers. We hear people around her trying to figure out what stereotypes to stick on her.
Michelle Todd’s performance is frenetic and energetic. She’s a force to behold on stage if for no other reason than the vigor with which she attacks this performance. Michelle performs Deep Fried Curried Perogies at the pace of memories flashing before one’s eyes – she takes the audience along with her throughout her ruminations. No where is this more obvious than during the excerpt where Michelle gives us a FULL tour of Heritage Days by way of dance performance. It’s a full five (10?) minutes of Michelle’s portrayal of the cultural dances of an untold number of booths at Heritage Days and is one of the most athletic feats I’ve seen in the theatre in a while and genuinely recreates the feeling of walking around Heritage Days.
While the aspect of Deep Fried Curried Perogies that can be described as stream of consciousness can feel overwhelming and like it’s coming too fast at times, it’s also the perfect way to tell this story of identity and encourage reflection of the moments that make up ones own identity. It makes sense for the story and its examination of how one defines their own identity, never mind raises a child to understand the five-plus cultures they come from. Identity is not a simple topic and Deep Fried Curried Perogies never tries to treat it like one.
In a more subtle way, Deep Fried Curried Perogies also casts a light on the privilege enjoyed by a select few – that of being able to be seen as one’s own person, not a reflection of a larger cultural group. The privilege to be believed the first time when you tell someone you’re from Edmonton, and not having that question lead to a follow-up about where your parents are from. The privilege of not having one’s tastes, skills, and talents assumed based on where your parents are from or the color of your skin. Or maybe it’s not so much about privilege, as it is about the ways individuality can be removed by a question, a remark, or a word.