Theatre @ York confronts the gritty world of Bond’s classic play The Bundle

Alan Dilworth directs Theatre @ York’s production of The Bundle by visionary English playwright Edward Bond, opening March 10 at York University. Set in the last era of feudal China, this epic theatrical journey asks if real change is possible in an unjust world.

In The Bundle, the protagonists – and the spectators – are faced with a series of ethical dilemmas and their aftermath. The poet Basho chooses his quest for personal enlightenment over saving a baby, left to die by its destitute parents. The baby, rescued by an impoverished ferryman, grows up to be the revolutionary fighter Wang. The drama that follows eventually pits Basho and Wang against one another. The salvation of a desperate community repeatedly devastated by flood and famine hangs in the balance.

Right: Alan Dilworth

In an interesting twist, Dilworth has cast a female in the role of Wang rather than the male actor the play calls for. Bond has "personally endorsed the experiment and looks forward to hearing the result," Dilworth said.

In preparation for the production, the director visited Bond last summer at his home near Cambridge, England. "Bond explained in detail his vision of society, politics, drama and a few key ideas I should consider when directing his plays," Dilworth said. "I was struck by his complete commitment to his dramatic vision.

"I find him both terrifying and inspiring in his relentless demand for meaningful drama," said Dilworth. "In person, he proved to be the most generous of souls."

From Dilworth’s first encounter with the Bond play Lear, he was amazed both by the playwright’s brutality and his humanity. "Bond’s work is infamous for its violence, and yet, ultimately it has one central theme: the human need for justice in an inhuman society," Dilworth said. "Bond speaks in a raw, direct voice that challenges us to look at difficult questions and to contemplate intense social and moral choices. Theatre is the ideal vehicle to explore the ethical questions inherent within the timeless dilemmas of Basho’s and Wang’s world, and our society today."

Dilworth, who is currently completing his MFA in York’s Department of Theatre, has a long list of professional credits to his name. He is the artistic co-director of Belltower Theatre, an associate artist of Convergence Theatre and founder of Zero Hour. As a director, his credits include: The Unforgetting (2004 SummerWorks Jury Prize) with Belltower Theatre; The Gladstone Variations – The Card Trick (Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2007 – NOW Magazine); Autoshow – Prodigy (Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2006 – NOW Magazine) with Convergence Theatre; and If We Were Birds (2008 SummerWorks Jury Prize) with Groundwater Productions. He was shortlisted for the Ontario Council of Arts John Hirsch Director’s Award, named the Best Emerging Male Director in NOW Magazine‘s 2008 Best of Toronto Guide, and was the recipient of the prestigious Urjo Kareda Emerging Artist Theatre Residency at Tarragon Theatre.

Working with Dilworth on The Bundle is an ensemble of 11 graduate acting students performing 27 characters, and a talented creative team of undergraduates handling all aspects of the production design and execution.

Theatre @ York, the production company of York University’s Theatre Department, has been entertaining audiences for almost 40 years. Each year, the company mounts a challenging season of plays drawn from the contemporary and classical repertoire, featuring some of Canada’s most promising stage talent.

The Bundle runs March 10 to 14, at the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre, Centre for Film & Theatre on York’s Keele campus. Previews take place March 8 and 9 at 7:30pm. The play opens March 10 and runs to March 14 with performances at 7:30pm, plus matinees March 11 and 13 at 1pm. Admission is $15 or $10 for students and seniors. The March 8 preview is pay-what-you-can and admission for the March 9 preview is $5. Tickets are available through the York University Box Office Web site or by calling 416-736-5888.