Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: (Toronto) You Should Have Stayed Home: A #G20 Romp (Touring to: Montreal, Ottawa)

When You're Not So Lucky
A vital story to hear
by Gregory Bunker

Toronto’s downtown G20 meeting in 2010 was insanity: all of a sudden the city became foreign, and news feeds made sure flaming police cruisers and black bloc vandalism were the most memorable moments for those who weren’t there. Few have heard a first-hand account of the largest violation of civil liberties in Canadian history. Abuse and arrests were indiscriminately dished out to peaceful protesters, passersby, even tourists. I was also unwittingly caught up in it, and I was lucky to get out. Tommy Taylor, the playwright and sole performer, was not so lucky.

What makes Praxis Theatre and The Original Norwegian’s You Should Have Stayed Home a vital story to hear is the detail, the honesty, and the loss of naïveté – not just Taylor’s but Canadians’ in general - about corrupted power structures. What makes it touching is that Taylor handled the ordeal just as you or I might have. Why couldn’t he just get a break?, you keep asking yourself. He was nice. He did as he was told. This is Canada and police can’t just arrest you without reason, and they certainly can’t get away with it. But Taylor was let down, of course. And still, he is too nice about it. (And so are we, the public, but this is his show.)

After an unexplained 15-minute delay, Taylor recounts his story with emotion and without embellishment, sitting and standing. It is straightforward. A little too straightforward. There are fascinating if startling reveals about the ignorance, belligerence, and abuse carried out by authorities; especially the Toronto Police Service. But the storytelling is promoted as theatre, and the set of a makeshift detainment cell also suggests that drama is coming. There is a scene where detainees (willing participants see link below) populate the cell, acting according to the narration, but this is still too static to have much more effect than Taylor’s plain-spoken words. The lighting (Kimberley Purtell) and sound (Thomas Ryder Payne) are superbly done, and add subtle drama. There is amazing material for riveting, thoroughly inspiring if discouraging political theatre; the story also stands on its own coming from a man on a stool. This production is a bit too in-between to be as effective as either.

If everyone heard this story, we’d all be better off for it. It reveals how precarious our sense of security becomes when the chain of command breaks down, when the police don’t know who the enemy is, and when the police are accountable only to themselves. It’s a lesson we rarely get here in Canada (aside from First Nations who, we learn, are accustomed to this), but it’s important that those involved get a say and get some justice.

If you’re in Ottawa, check this show out on opening night (Nov. 20): you may see several MPs among the detainees. Former mayor David Miller, city councillors and Toronto Police Service Chief Bill Blair are invited to attend the Toronto shows at their convenience. I didn’t see them at opening night, but here’s hoping they’ll show up.

Run time: 75 minutes with no intermission.
Runs to October 26th at Aki Studio Theatre.
To become a detainee, email
It will subsequently be performed at Mainline Theatre in Montreal October 30-November 2
It will also be performed in Ottawa at the Arts Court Theatre November 20-23 

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