Review: (Toronto / Theatre) we are not afraid of the dark
Photo by Elj van Riel
Lost in Translation by Beat Rice
If one reads the Artistic Director’s notes in the program before a performance, they will find themselves moved and humbled by Franco Boni’s deeply personal and truthful message. Unfortunately the performance of we are not afraid of the dark, does not capture any of the complicated or life changing emotions humans experience when dealing with mortality. Having recently dealt with tragedy and loss, I was mentally preparing myself for an emotional experience in the theatre. It turns out I did not need to.
The piece, inspired by the life and passing of artist Tracy Wright, is performed as a one woman, one hour long monologue. But it is not the story of the woman we see onstage. The writing is not at all personal, as performer Valerie Buhagiar recalls other people’s stories and experiences with life, death, and survival. She delivers them in a manner similar to that of a schoolteacher reading out a storybook. Like a lullaby, each little story is short and sweet. If one is listening carefully, the anecdotes of survival are actually quite amazing, but somehow lack truth and impact. Each phrase and story is given equal emphasis with little to no visual changes. There are no theatrical lighting cues in the piece; the stage is lit by 30 glowing lamps, and make for quite a beautiful installation. Luc Schaltin’s design is reminiscent of what I imagine a modern underworld would be.
Once in a while director Tine Van Aerschot would have Buhagiar reposition some lamps on stage or crouch or sit. The majority of the play is stand and deliver, with some vocal recordings of a male and female Ghost. I am not saying that visual tricks are necessary for an engaging production; in fact, sometimes you do not need any. But you do however need a strong story, and at least a little hint of theatricality.
we are not afraid of the dark was conceived with some truly inspirational ideas, that unfortunately did not translate to the stage.