Tarragon Theatre Announces A Poem for Rabia Cast

The cast headshots for Nikki Shaffeeullah's A Poem for Rabia, set to premiere at Tarragon Theatre. From top left, clockwise: Nikki Shaffeeullah, Adele Noronha, Michelle Mohammed, Jay Northcott, Anand Rajaram, and Virgilia Griffith.
From top left, clockwise: Nikki Shaffeeullah, Adele Noronha, Michelle Mohammed, Jay Northcott, Anand Rajaram, and Virgilia Griffith.

Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre is getting ready to open its doors for the 2023-24 season, and they’ve just unveiled the cast for the second show in their lineup.

Following the long-anticipated Toronto premiere of Walter Borden’s The Last Epistle of Tightrope Time (playing September 19 – October 15, 2023), Tarragon will present its first world premiere of the season. Award-winning theatre and film artist Nikki Shaffeeullah’s play A Poem for Rabia will make its debut in a Tarragon Theatre production in association with Nightwood Theatre and Undercurrent Creations.

Told over three centuries, A Poem for Rabia explores the interconnected stories of three women who share a bloodline: Zahra, a disillusioned queer activist in 2053 Toronto; Betty, a civil servant in 1953 British Guiana; and Rabia, an Indian domestic worker in 1853, abducted by colonial “recruiters” and sent from Calcutta to the Caribbean on an indentured labour shift. 

Billed as a production highlighting Shaffeeullah’s lyrical storytelling, the play travels from the past to the not-so-distant future, documenting the women’s fights for freedom and an escape from oppression across different lands and times. Through colonization, decolonization, and abolition, each story examines what it means to be in a changing society.

The cast of six seasoned artists will bring to life nine characters across three generations. Michelle Mohammed and Adele Noronha will take on the roles of Betty and Rabia, while Shaffeeullah herself will play Zehra, the production’s futuristic heroine. Filling out the final six roles are Virgilia Griffith (Sheree/Marsha), Anand Rajaram (Farooq/Ramesh), and Jay Northcott (Jem/Tom). At the helm of the production are three-time Governor General’s Award nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and Houselighters of the Citadel Theatre Award-winner Clare Preuss as co-directors.

“This is a season that embraces intergenerational conversation while uplifting enchanting artistic form and the breadth of our cultural perspective,” said Tarragon Theatre artistic director Mike Payette in a press release. “We are thrilled to welcome audiences to a season brimming with new pieces that will entice curiosity, inspire, challenge, move, and look deeper into ourselves and each other in beautiful and unexpected ways.”

A Poem for Rabia runs October 17 through November 12at Tarragon Theatre. To find out more or purchase tickets, click here.

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Written By

Jessica is a former associate editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.