Last night I went to see Rhinoceros at the Bader Centre for the Arts. I knew several friends who were in it but had no idea what it was about. I was a bit disoriented at first, not sure where it all was heading or why. Tied together by the notion that there were a few rhinoceroses seen about town and they presented both curiosity and perhaps even threat, the rest of the night was a series of vignettes – monologues and poems and dance and music – that were largely written and performed by local people.
As the evening wore on I could better understand the thread. Basically it was a comment on diversity in our community and on our streets and, in the long run, we are all unique and in some way a rhinoceros to others. We need to be tolerant and open in seeing new people or people that differ from us in whatever way.
Now this sounds a bit preachy but that was not how it came across. It was a bit of a grab bag and some of the performances were a bit awkward but all were heartfelt. I was not bored for a minute. There were so many ideas and thoughts coming at me that at times I felt I needed a bit more time to reflect on what I had just heard.
My friend and I talked about it for an hour after the show and today I ruminated on the theme several times. This is a great credit to the production. Theatre can both entertain and cause reflection. This one did both.
As the actors called out that they had spotted a rhinoceros on the street, I was reminded of a trip to Uganda in 2013 with my friend, Dave Kay. We went to a rhino sanctuary where we were out with a guide looking for a few of the (huge) rhinos that lived in the forest there. We came across a few. Dave was more brave than I was to get a look at them. I hung back with my camera – if the rhino charged it would get Dave first. And our instructions were, if the animal charged to climb a tree. Can you imagine me scrambling up an acacia with a rhino snorting down on me? The guide said that when they charged it was usually a false charge and they would stop short. Usually was the operative word in that sentence for me. We survived.
And to fit the diversity theme, this happens to be Pride weekend in Kingston. Today there was a parade down Princess Street with lots of colour and gaiety in the old sense of the word.
I remembered the first summer I lived in Kingston, there was an article in the Whig Standard with a photo of a same sex kiss-in on the steps of City Hall. This was seen to be provocative and somewhat astounding.
One report of this incident reads: “Although the ceremony itself lasted only fifteen minutes, it attracted over 400 onlookers and was described as “a kiss that reverberated throughout Kingston.” The public’s responses to the kiss ran the gamut from curiosity to outrage. Most of the crowd applauded, but some showed their disapproval by booing.”
Today there were hundreds of brightly clothed celebrants of diversity in the parade down our main street. Kids, families, soldiers, church groups, members of parliament.
The rainbow seems to have replaced the rhinoceros.