Benaldo Yeung plays Kanao Inouye a controversial Canadian historic figure known as the Kamloops Kid. Photo by: Grant Dix
TORONTO – A brilliant flash of light fills the stage as the atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Kanao and Martha Inouye are lit only momentarily by the flash, but the desperation in their eyes tells the audience all they need to know about how these two souls have been transformed by war.
It’s a striking moment that – if only for a few seconds – brings the brother and sister back together during their darkest hours, but they are separated by an ocean and armies.
Kanao is being sent to his death as a traitor to his country while Martha is exiled in Canada struggling to survive in an internment camp.
Based off of the experiences of the real Kanao and Martha Inouye, Interrogation: Lives and Trials of the Kamloops Kid is an examination of one of Canada’s most controversial war criminals.
Written by Inouye’s great niece Karri Yano and playwright Evan Mackay the play that debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Starring Benaldo Yeung and Loretta Yu, the 55-minute play is told through letters sent between the brother and sister from the 1930s to the late 1940s.
The play also doubles as a bit of a history lesson for audiences giving watchers a feel for what it was like in both Japan and Canada during that time in history covering such things as the Japanese Canadians being denied the right to vote in 1936 to the expansionist efforts of Imperialist Japan.
One particular subject that appears throughout the play that connects the brother and sister is the Vancouver Asahi, a Japanese baseball team that played in British Columbia. The team’s effort to win over Vancouverites with their patented “Brain Ball” style of play mirrors the deterioration of their lives.
It is a good examination of the community’s history in Canada and also the historic background of the part Japan played during the Second World War.
However, the play’s focus is a reexamination of Kanao Inouye, the Kamloops Kid.
Marked as Canada’s only Japanese-Canadian war criminal, Kanao is initially placed into a sympathetic light. He’s a 20-something-year-old living in Japan and trying to show how Japanese he is to his family; however, his youth in Canada seems to hold him back.
As the war progresses and his loyalty is questioned, we see his darker side emerge. He tortures Canadian prisoners of war because he knows his own life is expendable in the eyes of his superiors. If he holds back, then he’ll lose his life and never be able to return to Canada.
How far would you go to protect your life? It’s the question that Yeung, in his brilliant performance, begs as he pleads with the audience to understand his plight. He’s a person caught in a war, not the war criminal that history has painted him.
However, the play also recognizes the importance of the history of the Kamloops Kid. Bookending the play are segments where Loretta Yu plays a fourth-generation Japanese Canadian living in Japan.
Yu tells her grandmother in one of her letters that she has learned about her great uncle crimes, but she can’t immediately forgive him for his actions. She can only imagine the world he lived in compared to the one where she’s freely able to be Japanese and Canadian without suffering from the slings and arrows of racism.
It is a great play that brings a controversial figure into the spotlight without forcing pathos onto the character.
Yeung and Yu give spectacular performances and can be seen until July 12 in Toronto.
*Nikkei Voice is the media sponsor of Interrogation: Lives and Trials of the Kamloops Kid.