INTERROGATION: Lives and Times of The Kamloops Kid

September 1, 2015 at 11:34 am
INTERROGATION: Lives and Times of The Kamloops Kid

Photo of Benaldo Yeung and Loretta Yu by Jessica Dix

by Karri Yano and Evan Andrew Mackay
The Toronto Fringe Festival
@Factory Theatre Mainspace
July 6, 2015, 1 pm

by David Fujino

This particular version of the lives and times of the Kamloops Kid clearly preoccupies the kid’s grand-niece, Karri Yano, in her recently unveiled play at this year’s 2015 Toronto Fringe.

I say ‘this particular version’ because there’s other stories circulating about Kanao Inouye — in fact, a tense guy in the audience told me he’d ‘like to hear what Hong Kong vets have to say’ about the torture they endured under the Canadian-born Inouye, who first worked in Japan as a translator and then became a notorious POW (Prisoner of War) interrogator for the Japanese army during World War 2.

I responded, ‘that’s fine, but we should look at the story in the play’. Somehow this seemed to stop the unreasonable demands the man was making of the play — meanwhile, the basic story that Yano and co-author and director Evan Mackay want to present is that of a separated brother and sister, Kanao Inouye in Japan and his sister Martha in Canada. Through the device of letters, they share experiences and ultimately reveal to the audience that matters such as loyalty and national identity are often forced upon us by governments, especially during times of war.

Admittedly, I walked into this play expecting a straightforward presentation of the controversial ´facts’ about the Kamloops Kid (perhaps the play would even be a bit ´dry’?) — but during and after the play — I felt I’d been exposed to the humanity of the Kamloops Kid. I mean this “war criminal” is also a brother to his sister, a child to his parents, a Canadian of Japanese descent, and originally a visiting student at Japan’s prestigious Waseda University. I’m not saying the kid’s excused of his war crimes; I’m saying he’s a man — and not a monster — and that is how I accept him and his story, as a man.

But this is a play, and I should point out some of its dramatic moments. In a brief and effective scene played out at centre stage, a uniformed Benaldo Yeung mimed loud punishing stage slaps, while throughout the course of the play, Loretta Yu’s portrayal of Martha lent considerable buoyancy to the otherwise grey and disturbing stories she told about the internment of Japanese Canadians in Canada.

In this play, a lot of the drama is internal and the brother and sister go through what’s in their minds, but since the play’s also very fictionalized — I refer to the conceit of letter writing — it´s the audience that is invited to question its own convictions about identity, loyalty, and national identity.

Although he´s known in some quarters as ‘Canada’s war criminal’, Inouye was also known — perhaps more fondly? — as ‘the Kamloops Kid’; how interesting, that nearly 70 years later, a play comes along and draws parallels between the identity issues in Inouye’s story and the identity issues that proliferate in today’s world.

“It’s 2015 and still issues of racial, religious, and sexual identity dominate the headlines.” (Karri Yano – Programme notes)

(Writer’s note: I believe that INTERROGATION: Lives and Times of The Kamloops Kid, is the first play by a Japanese Canadian to premiere in The Toronto Fringe Festival.)

– David Fujino –