by Lynn on June 14, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, part of Luminato, Toronto, Ont.

Written and Directed by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone (600 Highwaymen)

Original music by Brandon Wolcott and Emil Abramyan

Production design by Eric Southern

Sound by Brandon Wolcott

Performed by Abigail Bowde

Nile Harris

Jax Jackson

Bryan Saner

Michael Silverstone

Marianne has had a dinner party. She is in her kitchen leaning on her counter recalling it all. People arrived early and helped. A person arrived late and was applauded for arriving at all it seemed. Someone brought a baby. People gathered in the kitchen to talk. When Marianne went into her back yard she perceived a stranger standing there. Other neighbours came out of their houses to watch and witness and I guess offer protection.

The audience sits in chairs that line the playing space on all four sides. The floor was red. At one point people on one side of the square began to raise and lower their arms in a wave formation. The audience on the other sides joined in until everyone was doing the wave and variations of it, in unison.

A woman (Abigail Browde) in my row began to talk about Marianne and her dinner party. The telling was quiet, measured, thoughtful. She approached a woman on one of the sides of the space and asked her to suggest she was leaning on the kitchen counter. A man (Michael Silverstone?) sitting on another side talked about someone coming late and the people at the party applauded. This was the audience’s cue to applaud and we did.  The first woman talked about the baby at the party and gently took my hand as I walked into the playing space being the baby. I was told to hold my arms up with the hands crossing. I did. After a time I was gently told to sit down.

I hate audience participation. Hate it. I don’t go into an actors’ sacred, safe space (the playing area) and I expect  the same courtesy—keep out of my safe space.

But The Fever created by 600 Highwaymen is different. The whole audience, either singly or together, illustrates the story that the small company of actors is telling. At one point a man asks for help as he falls and people try to come to his aid. He asks someone to help turn him over and they do. Another time a man is lifted up by the audience and passed along hand by hand. One of the company asks for someone to come and join in and someone from the audience does.

At the end of this production we are told what we did—we participated in telling the story; we helped someone who needed it; we helped in other ways; we acted communally and together. It was a terrific experience, not threatening, antagonistic, but gentle, respectful, welcoming.

The production is plays until June 16. The company 600 Highwaymen is from New York. Please see this show and make them feel welcome.

Plays until June 16, 2018.

Running time: 75 minutes.

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1 Eleanor O'Connor June 18, 2018 at 9:27 am

I think this is the kind of work Luminato should bring us. A different experience.
One that leaves us thinking about the structure of theatre.
But I would like better acoustics.