Saturday, August 10, 2013

Theatre For Thought, August 10, 2013

joel fishbane

Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival, premiering this week, is shaping up to be more avant-garde then usual. A curated festival – applicants must be approved by the SummerWorks jury before being granted a slot – this year’s festival seems to have an abundance of shows that push the theatrical envelope and move away from the traditional notions of what theatre can be.

Leading the pack on this is Hello for Dummies, a project by Ant Hampton and Glen Neath. Split into pairs of strangers, audiences are led to benches and have conversations with each other via lines given them on headphones. All of this happens without the strangers ever looking at one another, allowing audiences to explore the usual complexities that occur when face-to-face interaction is taken away. 

This time around they’re giving us “a modern metropolitan punk clown tragedy” that promises to be “part video collage, part meta-theatre.”

It’s all fairly enigmatic, though a review of the New Zealand production assures us “there are actors…and there is a script but there is also an audience – the casual passerby who simply comes across this delicate passion play – and there is a sense of rehearsal and the recreating of spontaneity.”

There’s a similarity in Midway Along the Journey of Life, created by Daniele Bartolini and Danya Buonastella. Like the folks at Hello for Dummies, the creators plan to blind the audience – in this case through blindfolds. An audience member moves through  Toronto’s alleyways all the while interacting with a host of enigmatic characters.

There must be something in Toronto’s back alleys that holds appeal because they also serve as the venue for The Wooden Sky Travelling Adventure Show. A one night only event, the show is hoping to redefine the conventional concert thanks to the participation of director Jennifer Brewin of Theatre Columbus and Michael Rubenfeld, SummerWork’s Artistic Producer. The concert will travel, along with the audience, throughout Toronto’s alleys on August 16.

Unique things can also be expected at Trying for the Kingdom, produced by Sidemart Theatrical Grocery. Sidemart has gained a reputation for smart, provocative theatre ever since they produced a few successful site-specific pieces in Montreal – such as Morris Panych’s The Dishwashers, set entirely in the dishpit of an actual restaurant. Last time they were at SummerWorks, it was to present The Haunted Hillbilly, a musical that went on to have a full production at Centaur Theatre.

This time around they’re giving us “a modern metropolitan punk clown tragedy” that promises to be “part video collage, part meta-theatre.” Normally I’d be wary of any show synopsis that avoids telling me what the show is actually about, but I have such blind faith in the folks at Sidemart that this time around I don’t really care. They remind me of the folks at Pixar: they have such a long history of greatness that their only problem is audiences comparing them to themselves.

There’s lots of other things at SummerWorks – musicals about Alzheimers (Alzheimers that Ends Heimer) and Shakespeare’s wife (Miss Shakespeare), a remount of Greg MacArthur’s girls! girls! girls! and a show by Adam Lazarus and Guillermo Verdecchia that wins my award for the best title of the year: The Art of Building a Bunker or Paddling the Canoe of my Self down the River of Inclusivity and into the Ass of the World. All if it looks to be pretty unconventional fare: the juries of SummerWorks seem poised to continue to provoke audiences and challenge what it means to spend a night at the theatre.
Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival runs from August 8 – 18, 2013. For tickets visit

Read our reviews and articles about SummerWorks, 2013

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