By Melissa Farmer
There was an old garage on my street. It was a family-run business, and I never got to see it – it got torn down and turned into a parking lot. It’s been a parking lot for a while, but I’m certain it was a garage first. Now, it’s about to turn into a new condo development. There’s been much protest, but it’s happening. Those condos may exist there for a long time. But those condos might not be there forever, and that garage-cum-parking lot-cum-condo development may become something else. One day, it may even become a parking lot again.
I walked past this parking lot on my way to see each of the five shows I saw to-date at this year’s SummerWorks festival. So maybe that’s why I’ve come to see each of the shows in light of it: a space in a consistent state of transition. It’s not a profound observation, but for what it’s worth, each of my five SummerWorks shows (and, maybe, most art in general?) seems to examine how people choose to negotiate the space around them.
Trying for the Kingdom
(SideMart Theatrical Grocery at Lower Ossington Theatre
) asks what’s the point of doing all that in-between stuff? Everything gets torn down and reinvented anyways, so let’s just tear it all down now and live in that chaotic, messy space that we’re sure to return to one day. It’s “a modern metropolitan punk clown tragedy” involving three desperate souls in a squalid apartment, making music, haunted by the television, desperate to do something that matters. It’s a slippery fish, this one. During its 60 minutes I felt alienated and challenged. I struggled to find a way in. I also thought a lot about making art and being young. All genres are self-defeating, it’s just that most do a much better job of hiding it than punk. Isn’t it a punk thing that as soon as the audience likes the song (I really liked the songs), the song has failed? And that’s a tricky space to negotiate.
at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
) takes that parking lot on my street and constantly reinvents it. We meet a man and a woman who are in a constant state of aggressive play – competing and imagining and creating and destroying.
Like its title suggests, there’s a constant flipping between an underlying tenderness and ferocity on stage. It’s rich writing and brave performances. Through some physically imaginative and athletic staging we witness this couple’s unending reinterpretations of the world around them. We see spaceships, octopus tentacles, monkeys, hand grenades, unicorns, and – at the heart of it all – tragedy. Is Tender Napalm
a play about coping? Sure. Is it about imagination? Relationships? Grief? Letting go? Yep. And soon some privileged young people will have a new, trendy home in my neighbourhood, but when the garage on my street got torn down, someone lost something. That’s an important thing to remember.
Wild Dogs on the Moscow Trains
(Live Lobster Theatre at Scotiabank Theatre), if we continue with the metaphor, just wants to move to a neighbourhood without a bloody parking lot. I’ve never been to Russia
, but this show did a great job of discouraging me from ever visiting. And I mean that in the best way possible. Anthony MacMahon’s script is quick-moving, while developing a stagnancy that really builds. It’s another three-hander, and like the kids in Trying For the Kingdom
, these guys are also trapped. And when people are feeling trapped, people look for ways out. This was a riveting sixty minutes for me, and is especially fun if you can manage to see it back-to-back with SideMart’s not-dissimilar Kingdom
. It’s an enriching double-header.
How to Disappear Completely
(The Chop Theatre
at Factory Theatre
) reminds us of the insight one can gain from documenting that parking lot, and then reflecting on how it changed; how its changes affected the neighbourhood, and how its changes affected (and continue to affect) you. Itai Erdal
is really charismatic. He starts his show by reminding us that he’s not an actor (he’s a lighting designer), but, in this case, I didn’t care. This was a beautiful story to listen to, and a haunting piece to watch. Erdal takes us through his mother’s experience with lung cancer, documenting it through photos and videos and stories. It’s got a quiet elegance, it’s beautifully lit, it’s touching and honest. At one point, he reminded me of the ephemerality of theatre, which seems a fitting point to end on. Today I noticed that parking lot has got a chain-link fence across it now – the construction’s begun.
SummerWorks ends on Sunday, August 18th (some shows on Aug. 17th). Get your tix now! Click here!