The largest Ponzi scheme in BC history grabbed media attention for the past several years. Now, playwright Tim Carlson has compiled records – case testimony, interviews with victims – and has structured it in such a way that the events are at times funny, tense and spectacular. Because of BC’s close connection with the events, the play Victim Impact feels like it’s happening right here, right now.
The compelling Nimet Kanji stars as Rashida Samji, the main culprit of the scheme. Over the years 2003 to 2012, Samji pitched an investment opportunity to over 200 people (many of whom were her close friends and family). The investment was a quickly-expanding wine company that guaranteed 12% interest back to investors. Of course, such an investment didn’t exist; the money lost by victims accumulated to over $110 million. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Jenn Griffin, Risha Nanda, Allan Morgan and Munish Sharma; all of whom play different roles as victims, judges, and lawyers.
The story is quite simple, and the strength of the production is its ability to explore all the details around this story. In a display of technical expertise by the productions team of designers, the play starts in a montage-like vignette of some details: victims in hysterics, Samji getting a call from someone who tells her she can make some quick cash. The ambiguity keeps you listening intently until, scene by scene, you understand more and more about the events that unfolded. The play skips between the past and the present like a great thriller; first they show Samji reeling in a victim, then going to a BC Provincial court case in which she explains how it went down. Just when it gets really tense, the production will throw in a fantasy scene in which the cast cartoonishly elaborates on the logistics of a Ponzi scheme – a fun mechanism that made me think of the film The Big Short.
What might be the production’s best quality is its ability to find the drama within documented conversations transcribed verbatim. In one scene, Samji is being prosecuted by a lawyer (Griffin) while her own lawyer (Morgan) defends her against the questions that would later incriminate her. Samji is caught between two sparring lawyers in what would is actually a funnier scene than I can do it justice. In addition to playwright Tim Carlson, I give props to director Jiv Parasram for finding the theatricality even in the most factual and expository scenes.
A live documentary about the biggest Ponzi scheme in BC history might sound like an epic feat, but the cast and crew succeed in telling the story by not taking themselves too seriously. Instead, their dedication to theatricality and storytelling is what makes this production so riveting.
Victim Impact plays at The Cultch from June 9-17. Tickets and information here.
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