The Design Journey

Your guide to the symbols and metaphor of Angel's Bone

Libretto by Royce Vavrek

The Text

Every element of Angel's Bone explores how power is granted, taken, or given to others in society, especially how female identifying children and youth can be powerless and robbed of agency — and how they may try and survive that loss.

For example, the character of Mrs. XE repeats the phrase "I've never asked to be legendary". In our interpretation, she is questioning her own role as a victim and the power she has over her life. How does she acquire control over her circumstances? How does it change her?

Music by Du Yun.
“…the score is a genre stew in which operatic and pop singing, faux-Renaissance polyphony that slides into dissonance, jazz riffs and electronic howls are deftly welded into a lean, propulsive dramatic arc” -Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

The Music

Du Yun’s score is intense. You’ll be transported throughout the history of Western style music, travelling through genres including chamber music, medieval chant, musical theatre, punk rock, opera, cabaret, and electronica.

In essence, this helps establish an insidious timelessness to the underlying narrative. Despite how much time passes and how many things change, there have always been survivors of trafficking and exploitation.

The palette of the mourning dove (as well as its name) inspired the colourways of the entire show, especially the wings, which hang from the ceiling.

Photo by Jess MacAleese


When we consider the mythic or symbolic aspects of feathers, several concepts come up almost immediately. In Christianity, feathers meant purity. To the Hopi, the link between heaven and earth. And in Western culture in general, innocence. 

To an angel—and thus to the youths in our production—feathers are identity. Feathers are their uniqueness and their unifying element, but also their vulnerability.

Set design and lighting: Holly Meyer-Dymny

Photo by Jess MacAleese


Ordinary society often ignores the feathers of our youth, and when someone tries to metaphorically spread their wings, society prefers to pressure those wings back into conformity. But when a trafficker sees them, they see opportunity.

And just as the angel’s wings are violently pruned in the original, so too are the identities of our youth. The vulnerabilities are capitalized upon and then pillaged for all they’re worth, as quickly as possible.

To be clear, the other victims we witness throughout the show are metaphorical “angels” as well. It is the transformation they undergo through being exploited that changes their identity, that prunes their wings.

Costume Design and Sketch by Joline Rath. This costume is used midway through Mrs. XE's rise in status and power. Note the use of feathers in her hair — a symbol of how, in her worldview, she can regain power.

Photo by Jess MacAleese

Mrs. XE

In this production, Mrs. XE is herself a victim of exploitation. Mr. XE recruited her in her youth, and after years of surviving assault and manipulation, her worldview has been shaped by sheer survival instinct.

When Mr. XE brings in two new victims, she sees an opportunity to gain control of her survival through the same tactics that ensnared her. Throughout the show, we see her use these tactics to grow in status to the point where she doesn’t need Mr. XE to survive. As her power grows, she shifts from victim to perpetrator.

The juxtaposition of her public face and the audience’s witnessing of her behaviour as perpetrator give rise to an uncomfortable empathy; we understand the reasons for her behavior while being unable to excuse it.

Set design and lighting: Holly Meyer-Dymny

The Set/Lighting

Our set and lighting designer Holly Meyer-Dymny has leveraged light as well as darkness to emphasize the shifting levels of isolation and connection victims face.

For example, narrowing spotlights that place a character in stark relief also place the rest of the set in darkness. The result? A sense of tension, isolation, and threat.

Additionally, silhouettes and smoke are used to symbolize the uncertainty and blurred lines survivors of exploitation are forced to endure.