‘Travel north’ with Aalaapi at NACC this month

Aalaapi on stage
Aalaapi on stage. Photo: Supplied

A Quebecois collective that uses theatre and silence to connect an audience to northern life will appear at Yellowknife’s Northern Arts and Cultural Centre on May 20.

Inuit and non-Inuit collaborators come together in Aalaapi, a group formed by performer, writer and director Laurence Dauphinais and radio creator and writer Marie-Laurence Rancourt.

Performed in Inuktitut, French and English, the project blends a play with radio.

“It’s kind-of a way for the audience to travel north for an hour and 20 minutes,” said Dauphinais.



“They have access to a day in the North, mostly through sound and the medium of radio, but also through images. When the audience comes in they see the facade of a northern house, which serves as a screen for beautiful, archival films in the North in the 60s and 70s.”

The performance follows two women, played by Inuit performers Nancy Saunders and Olivia Ikey, living a day in that house, relying on radio for communication. Through the radio a documentary plays that the two characters discuss before calling in to the show to talk about what they’re hearing.

The characters realize they are being watched, said Dauphinais, which is when the show takes a turn.

“It’s very meta. The audience has access to the documentary playing and they’re reacting to it at the same time as the characters are,” she said.



“There’s so much power in sound that is underused in theatre, and this is why I wanted to mix theatre and radio together, to have these effects.”

The northern house in Aalaapi. Photo: Supplied

Dauphinais and Rancourt created the collective as a product of their own interest in the North.

“We knew we were curious, but we also knew we were extremely ignorant,” Dauphinais told Cabin Radio.

“Even though it’s a fragile territory, we believe it’s possible for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to collaborate, and that’s what we wanted to do.

“We sat down asked … how can we not reproduce the same historical relations that have been present? How can we reimagine something new, together, where people will feel heard and respected? We really feel that Aalaapi has adapted to that – it was really a big laboratory where we met people who were extremely different, and we created this extremely challenging but extremely gratifying project.”

A crucial aspect of the project is silence. The word aalaapi is described by the group to mean “be silent, so you can hear something beautiful” in Inuktitut.

The performance “demands a different kind of existence,” said Dauphinais.

“It invites the spectator to listen with intent, with patience, and to rediscover what it means to exist at a different speed,” she said.



“While creating this, I got to learn about the relationship between Inuit people and listening with sincerity, and listening in silence, and it’s humbling – and a wonderful way to approach a situation you’re not familiar with and people that you’re not familiar with, to truly grasp the essence.

“That is what we tried to inspire with this piece.”

Performers Saunders and Ikey will host a multicultural workshop at NACC the following day, May 21, from 1-3pm. The two will explore Inuit throat singing, poetry and Inuit drumming with participants.

Aalaapi will take place at NACC on Saturday, May 20 at 7:30pm. More information about the show and tickets can be found on the NACC website.