Hannah Moscovitch’s play Other People’s Children, part of a Moscovitch double bill coming to Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, is about an upwardly mobile couple that hires a Sri Lankan live-in nanny for their 10-month-old daughter.
Paul Lampert, the director of Other People’s Children, said that it’s a “very modern look at what happens when we have someone take care of our children, when we make the choice that we have to get back to work.”
In the play, the husband, Ben, is not crazy about the nanny, Sati, coming into the house because he’s more of a traditionalist who would like his wife, Ilana, to form a stronger bond with their daughter.
“Very quickly it turns out that Sati is not only an excellent nanny, but she has three children of her own back in Sri Lanka… she’s an excellent mother,” Lampert said. “She’s able to cope well.”
Ilana, who is played by Lampert’s wife, Nikki Landau, begins to feel insecure about her own motherhood and her mothering qualities, and Ben starts to like Sati’s mothering qualities. The difficulties arise as the relationships develop, Lampert said.
“Inevitably there are going to be people in the audience with children who have nannies, and they are going to be asking themselves similar kinds of questions of how good a parent they are and how much is this person I’m bringing into the house becoming part of my family,” said Lampert, the father of a daughter, Clara, 5.
“It is interesting because we are really speaking to this socioeconomic bracket that would very much understand these issues.”
The play also looks at the nanny’s situation – she has left her children behind to be raised by someone else, perhaps a relative, to take care of other people’s children, Lampert said. The relative is forming bonds that are more ingrained and tighter with “other people’s children.”
Gray Powell plays Ilana’s husband, Ben, and Elisa Moolecherry, a Canadian who is the artistic director of BeMe Theatre in Munich, plays the nanny, Sati.
As a co-director, Lampert said the challenge for him is that Moscovitch writes “in a very particular fashion and yet none of the text is upfront. It is all sub-textual, so you really have to work with the actors very closely to find what is going on underneath the text and you have to navigate that.
“Luckily, Hannah is occasionally in the room and I can actually ask her what she was looking for. Hannah writes in an almost cryptic fashion and what is said is deeply buried with intention and motivation. The language is a façade… only a mask for what is really going on underneath.”
Lampert said that Moscovitch is a “fascinating playwright who is quickly becoming one of the most important playwrights currently in Canada.”
Although this is the first time Lampert, a National Theatre School of Canada graduate, has directed a play by Moscovitch, Lampert’s list of credits is extensive, including working with Poland’s Teatr BLIK, and International Theatre in Vienna. He directed the national première of Oleanna for the Stary Theatre in Kraków, Poland, and I, Claudia, for BeMe Theatre, which toured to Barcelona, Shanghai and Munich.
Lampert has directed at theatres across Canada, including at the Blyth Festival and Shaw Festival. He’s the past artistic director of Toronto’s George Brown Theatre School and is now on sabbatical from teaching acting and directing at York University.
Other People’s Children is on a bill with Little One, directed by Natasha Mytnowych.
Lampert and Landau are the co-artistic directors of Theatre PANIK.
Hannah Moscovitch’s Other People’s Children is presented in co-production with Theatre PANIK at Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space from Feb. 14 to March 24. For tickets, call the box office at 416-531-1827 or visit www.tarragontheatre.com.