The Book of Life

I needed that.

The Book of Life, a Volcano Production in association with the Woman Cultural Centre, Rwanda, and Why Not Theatre, is currently running at the Berkeley St Theatre, presented by Canadian Stage.

I came into this show wondering meekly, how does one open one’s mouth to discuss the unspeakable, how does one depict the unthinkable? For dramatists who ponder such questions, The Book of Life has more than a few answers.

We’re taken to a relatively blank space that might be a psychiatrist’s office, except we’re not in the presence of a shrink. Instead it’s storyteller Odile Gakire “Kiki” Katese, the performer, writer & co-creator of Book of Life.


Kiki Katese (photo: Dahlia Katz)

Look around. The world needs therapy. Canada has had its TRC and its report on MMIWG, yet one who would-be Prime Minister denies that the latter was a genocide. The events in the former Yugoslavia, in Germany, in Turkey are all since the killing in the Americas.

As someone who spent some time in therapy, some time studying to be a therapist, and as a creator in the theatre, I’ve long noticed the overlap, that art is therapeutic, that artists can be like therapists even as we sometimes are struggling with our own healing.
Pain can make one an expert in healing. I think that’s clearer to me after Robin Williams’ example.

If Kiki ever tires of telling her story or convening her colleagues at rehearsals of Ingoma Nshya (aka the women drummers of Rwanda), I think she would make an excellent therapist.

Book of Life is stories and music and visuals, plus a little bit of activity getting the audience to participate.


I won’t spoil it by telling you too much, but I think you will love this part of the show: where you use your pencil.

When I discussed it afterwards with my seat-mate, we found it had been extraordinarily rich in encouraging us to remember family, aiding our memories while emphasizing something fun.  The conversation was magical.

I had thought the Rwandan genocide too bleak, too upsetting, and came to this show balancing trepidation with hope. And I feel I was rewarded by a wonderfully positive experience.

The Book of Life runs at the Berkeley St. Theatre until Sept 29th. You should check it out.

This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Politics, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s