Oil (Spring 2022)

This event occurs every day until Mar, 5th 2022

Artwork by Jonathan Wood


by Ella Hickson
Directed by Moya O’Connell

Oil outlines the depletion of a natural resource over the course of three centuries. The mother-daughter duo, May and Amy, travel through time from 1889 to 2051. As they hop between Tehran, London and Baghdad, they witness the human cost of the oil industry. This intimate epic critiques the exploitation of oil through an anti-colonial feminist lens.

Oil took 150 million years for the earth to make. Humans will have used it up in 200.  Wars have been fought over it, empires built upon acquiring it and this earth made vulnerable by our never-ending extraction of it. It dwells beneath our feet, viscous, deep and secret. Yet it is running out. Our age of oil is ending, whether we like it or not.

Ella Hickson’s play is an intimate epic charting our relationship to this fossil fuel from drilled discovery to depletion. The play untethers us from linear time, setting the duration of a human lifespan against the depletion of the natural world over centuries. We travel through time to explore our past, our present and our imagined future through May, a single mother who struggles to raise her daughter, Amy, in a world that promises limitless possibilities but fails to deliver. With bold imagination and Shavian wit and argument, the play interrogates the ruthless colonial history of oil; the impossible marriage of feminism and capitalism; the relationship of our food supply to labour; language; and the love between mother and daughter.

Part One: 1889. Cornwall, England. On a frozen, hardscrabble farm, we meet the Singer family. All of them are fighting for food, space and survival. No one fights harder than the already-pregnant May, who seems unable to find peace until a mysterious American salesman shows up on their doorstep with a newly invented kerosene oil lamp. As the Age of Oil begins, so too does May’s journey towards an imagined emancipation and freedom.

Part Two walks May and Amy to Tehran, 1908, with May working as a servant to support her precocious growing child. The Persian oil fields are extremely productive to the great advantage of the British Empire, who gleefully and mercilessly take ownership of the resource, and we are invited to view petro-imperialism through the lens of the serving class.

Part Three drives us to London, 1970. May has risen up the chain of command to become an executive at British Petroleum. She is suddenly under extreme pressure when Libya’s socialist revolution shifts the imperialist relationship between England and the country’s still-abundant oil supply. The colonizer gets thrown off balance, and so does the idea of the modern working mother climbing up the corporate ladder. Amy, a combative teenager, rebels against her mother’s control. Like Britain and Libya, their relationship is delicate, imbalanced and on the verge of collapse. The gloves come off as one party stands up to their oppressor.

Part Four flies us to Baghdad, 2021. On war-ravaged sands, an adult Amy openly revolts against May, now an ex-MP brokering deals between the British oil industry and terrorist factions in Iraq. Through Amy, an outspoken eco-warrior and activist, we are introduced to Aminah, who struggles to survive the war and care for her family while trying to remain friends with her deeply naive Western friend.

Part Five jumps us into an imagined future. We circle back to Cornwall. The year is 2051 and the climate is in crisis. May is now a powerless older woman and Amy is middle-aged. Amy grapples with the burden of care as the two women navigate living in a world where oil, like May, is nearing the end of its life cycle. In an echo of the first scene, a mysterious stranger knocks on their door, peddling a new energy supply harvested from the moon. Mother and daughter are left staring down the barrel of their journey through history, reckoning with their responsibilities to one another and to this earth.

–Moya O’Connell


Rahma Al Fahoum Anne, Ana, Aminah
Blake Buksa Thomas, Mr. Thomas, Tom
Fiona Jenkins May
Ruairi MacDonald Samuel, Officer Samuel
Conor Meadows Joss
Dylan Nouri WW, Mr. Farouk, Waiter
Nicolas Olney-Rainville Nate
Belén Quirce Amy
Peihwen Tai Fanny, Fan Wang
Caylee Watrin Ma Singer

Christian Billet
Daniel Graham
Sophia Paskalidis
Erin Purghart

Moya O’Connell Direction
Sam Jeffery Intimacy and Fight Direction
Phay Moores Intimacy Direction
Mishelle Cuttler Music Composition
Finnley O’Brien Stage Management
Roohi Kamal Asst. Stage Management
Jasmine Liu Asst. Stage Management
Stephanie Barclay Stage Management Swing
Cassie Gilbert Asst. Production Management
Celeste Mol Costume Design
Muleba Chailunga Asst. Costume Design
Mikaela Joy Kawaley-Lathan Lighting, Projection Design
Kai Wong Projection Advisor
Brendan Lowe Asst. Lighting Design, Projection Advisor, Lighting Programming
Victoria McNeil Sound Design
SuYeon Park Asst. Sound Design
Lauren McLean Asst. Sound Design, Sound Programming
Jenn Stewart Scenic Design, Projection Advisor
Kelsey Raeanna Asst. Scenic Design
Rachel Tao Asst. Scenic Design
Anjali Mandapaka Scenic Design Shadow
Ali Altarhouni Arabic Language Coach (Libyan accent) and translations
Ghazal Azarbad Farsi/Persian Language Coach (Tehran accent)
Elizabeth McLaughlin American Accent Coach
Baraka Rahmani Arabic Language Coach (Iraqi accent) and translations
Zhixuan (Mia) Zhu Mandarin Language Coach (Standard Mandarin Accent) and translations
Camyar Chaichian Casting Consultant

Emma Hamilton Run Crew
Shaliya Ma Run Crew
Madeleine Polak Run Crew
David Siu Run Crew
Nina Yu Run Crew
SuYeon Park Sound Operator
Taylor Wen Lights and Projection Operator

Hannah Abbott Props
Roohi Kamal Props
Celeste Mol  Costumes
Caroline Tang  Costumes

Kathleen Baldakin, Stephanie Barclay, Isabelle Barlow, Saphia Eddie, Kaileigh Funnell, Emma
Hamilton, Yena Lee, Finnley O’Brien, Midori O’Connor, Madeleine Polak, Kelsey Raeanna, Jamie Ragins, Cheyane See, David Siu, Betsy Sun, Kristine Wu, Nina Yu, Hannah Abbott, Owen Marmorek, Aaron Au, Hayley Bamford, Samantha Cheng, David Moise, Cooper Mortimer, Ben Paul, Olivia Chen, Sophie Fougere, Crystal Luo, Tariro Motsi, Nixita Taneja, Grycel Tercero, Chloe Bohonos, Roohi Kamal, Matthias Kammüller, Zac Labrie, Shaliya Ma, Lauren McLean, Grace Nguyen, SuYeon Park, Yun Shim, Elyse Wall, Taylor Wen, Emily Chang, Joy Cheng, Hallie-Ahn Duncan, Nyssa Estrella, Zoe Lin, Huda Shawwash, Kai Wong, Jane Kim

Stephen Heatley Department Head
Jacqueline Firkins
Robert Gardiner
Leora Morris
Patrick Pennefather
Brad Powers
Technical Production
Patrick Rizzotti
Lorraine West
Scenic Paint
Collette Berg
Stage Management
Susan Miyagishima
Stage Management
Sheila Langston
Vocal Coaching
Amber Barton
Movement Coaching and Choreography
Gayle Murphy
Language Coaches Coordinator

Borja Brown Production Management
Cam Cronin Department Administrator
Ian Patton Academic Administrator
Lynn Burton Head of Properties
Jodi Jacyk Head of Wardrobe
Ryan Murcar Staff Technical Direction (Scenic)
Erika Champion Staff Technical Direction (Lights and Sound)
Tony Koelwyn Audience Services Manager
Andrea Cheng Communications Specialist
Jiejun Wu Marketing and Communications Assistant
Karen Tong Theatre and Film Studies Graduate Secretary
Sarah Crauder Film Program Administrator
Dmitri Lennikov Film Collections Coordinator
Stuart McFarlane Film Equipment Manager
Kirsten Dougans Assistant to the Head

Anna Alger, Torquil Campbell, Amy McDougall, Gerald Vanderwoude, Dave Winstanley, Yuting Chen, Seemi Ghazi (Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, UBC), Department of Asian Studies (UBC), Riggit Services, Great Northern Way Scene Shop, Arts Club Theatre Company, Bard on the Beach and UBC Opera

Design Portfolio


Wednesday, March 2 to Saturday, March 5
7:30 pm

UBC Theatre & Film has made the decision to make the run of Oil a closed, invite-only performance. We are doing this to ensure the utmost safety for our students, employees and audience.

We hope that you understand and we appreciate your continued interest in supporting the safety of our department and our students in the current conditions.


Frederic Wood Theatre
6354 Crescent Rd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

We acknowledge that the UBC Vancouver campus is situated within the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam.

For any questions, please contact our box office: 604.822.6835 or box.office@ubc.ca.