by Lynn on April 18, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer


At the Columbus Centre, 901 Laurence Ave, West, Toronto, Ont.

Written, performed and directed by Daniele BartoliniAssisted by Raylene Turner, Franco Berti, Michelle Andrei and Kaitlin Saito.

Another absorbing, site-specific, immersive,  communal show about art, food and conversations with strangers from Daniele Bartolini.

 Many theatre companies do site-specific, immersive work that is intricate, intriguing and adventurous. And then there is Daniele Bartolini and his DopoLavoro Teatrale (DLT) company who takes site-specific, immersive theatre to a whole new level.

For Talk is Free’s Curious Voyage adventure, Bartolini created site-specific narratives in two cities an ocean apart. It started in Barrie, Ontario. The audience had one on one interactions with various characters in various locations in the city. The audience was then flown to London, England to continue the voyage, where interactions took place on the street, in a hotel, in a basement restaurant, on a canal boat and in ones hotel room. It was all in preparation to see a site-specific production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in a derelict building. Wild.

This past Christmas, Bartolini created a more intimate production of If on a Christmas Night….in which part of the Columbus Centre was transformed into various rooms that the small audience visited for different interactions with characters, ending in a communal drink.

His latest creation, Leonardo’s Last Supper I think is Bartolini’s most personal, intimate work. There is only Daniele Bartolini as the story-teller and 12 of us in the ‘roving’ audience at the Columbus Centre, where he is artist-in-residence.

We are taken to a large room with a table on which are various dishes of antipasti. We are all given a glass of aperitif, invited to eat and we introduce ourselves. Food and drink always loosen people from their shyness and reticence at new experiences.

We are then taken to a secret location at the Centre behind the door marked: “Domestic Arts.” Another large table is there covered by a white tablecloth. We sit around three sides of the table. At the other end is a large screen. Wine is served. Raylene Turner is introduced and stands in one corner of the room behind an easel, sketching those around the table. Franco Berti is introduced. He will be preparing our supper. Both are part of the DopoLavoro Teatrale.

Bartolini begins by talking about his being born and brought up in Florence, Italy. He punctuates his story with family photos projected on the screen. There is a picture of his house, his glamorous grandmother, his bold, daring aunt, his art-loving grandfather, a nun who was a mean teacher, and art, from the ceiling of his school, the galleries in Florence and the museums—art everywhere. Bartolini believes that art communicates with all people. He notes that I look sceptical. I offer that I doubt that Doug Ford could appreciate art. Joël Beddows, the always gracious, courtly Artistic Director of théâtre français de Toronto quietly disagrees and feels that even Doug Ford would appreciate art in his own way and explains why. My mind is changed.

And at the centre of Bartolini’s world are two towering artists—Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel and The David to name but two of his works and Leonardo Da Vinci and The Mona Lisa and the Last Supper to name two of his works. Projected pictures of each accompanied the narrative.  Daniele’s story-telling is enthusiastic, vibrant and intense. He shows a close up of The Last Supper. One of the participants next to Jesus in the painting looks like a woman. Is that Mary Magdalene? Another participant down from her holds what looks like a knife. Is that Judas? And a knife? Who knew? Bartolini did and gets us all to ponder these questions and more. He introduces all sorts of little known facts about the artists and their work.

When he is finished conversations between the audience members naturally, easily begin. One man talks about the difference in colours from today to Leonardo’s time and how that difference informs any restoration. Other audience members have a spirited conversation in Italian. Opinions are shared. I tell Bartolini the first time I saw The David in Florence and cried and cry every single time I see it, it’s so magnificent a piece of art.

Franco Berti serves us the delicious dinner he has prepared: bread, soup, greens, salad, lasagne, fruit, cake and coffee. As with a Bartolini production a group gathering is arranged at the end for a photo. We all part having been filled up with art, food, good will, laughs and wonderful conversation, all because of Daniele Bartolini’s glorious imagination and brimming sense of communal theatre.

I can hardly wait for his next site-specific extravaganza.

Produced by Villa Charities Inc. and DopoLavoro Teatrale

 Opened: April 11, 2019.

Closes: April 28, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours approx.

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1 Morris April 23, 2019 at 2:32 pm

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