Evalyn Parry & Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory on Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools

The Skinny chat to artists Evalyn Parry and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory about their upcoming Edinburgh International Festival show, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools

Feature by Mirren Wilson | 01 Aug 2019
  • Kiinalik

Evalyn Parry, award-winning feminist theatre maker, and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, actor, musician and storyteller, formed a wondrous partnership after an encounter by chance. Hired as artists in residence, they met aboard an environmental expedition sailing from Nanuvut to Greenland. "The whole trip was pretty wild and intense and amazing," recalls Parry. "We connected on board, definitely recognising each other as politically motivated feminist artists. But also, for me it was a brand-new experience travelling in this part of the country. Meeting new Inuit people who were on the trip as a Southern white Canadian was a very perspective-altering experience.”  

The experience sparked a yearning in Parry to know more about her country’s history of colonialism. “I became obsessed with talking to people about what they knew about the North and engaging conversation around it. I kept coming back to the fact that to really represent a perspective, it didn’t make sense to have another white Southern narrator. It needed to be a dialogue and the authorship needed to be shared in order to actually explore a change of perspective." It was then that Parry approached Bathory. "I invited Laakkuluk to collaborate with me on something. And she basically said 'Yeah, but you should come to Nunavut to make it.'”

The result was Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, a 'concert and conversation' that is being staged outside Canada for the very first time at the Edinburgh International Festival this year. Drawing from the experiences of its performers, the show explores the territory and culture of the Canadian Inuit community, and inspects the country's current and historical climate. It also viscerally connects audiences to the critical climate conditions of the North, using creative, spell-binding set design to great effect. 

"I know that Scots are very connected to hiking and to harvesting, and that's something that we share culturally," says Bathory. "Inuit [people] – we see ourselves as a part of the land. We are not human beings that dominate the land, we are of the land and of the water." The show connects the dots between various issues. "In the play, we talk about colonisation, we talk about climate change and we talk about our femininity," explains Bathory. "We embody all the things that we talk about. We can only tell our own stories... Our rule is to be vulnerable, so that audiences can enter our understanding of our own histories in order to be able to see their place in the bigger picture."

Anticipating how the show will resonate with an Edinburgh audience, Parry reasons: "I’m aware that the Edinburgh audience is a very international audience, not just a Scottish audience… and it’s very interesting to see how people connect it to their own situation. We chatted to all kinds of people, around how this North/South conversation resonates in a different context. Obviously, Scotland has its own history around land dispossession and language dispossession and being the northern part of the island, there’s a colonising narrative as well. I think there’s lots of interesting parallels.” 

When asked the same question, Bathory laughs; “You might have to tell me!

"What I do as an artist is going to be completely new, I think," she continues. "As a Greenlandic mask dancer, it’s a very visceral experience, where I interact with audience members one on one, and crawl around and challenge and become a creature that is both fearsome and fearful and very sexual and very funny. So, I have no idea how that’s going to go down. We’ll see." 

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, The Studio Festival Theatre, 2-5 Aug, 7.30pm; 3 & 5 August, 2.30pm, £20