Reviews: You Can’t Get There From Here and The Toronto Pigeons

by Lynn on June 18, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming as part of the Factory Theatre Audio series: You Can’t Get There From Here until September 25, 2021.

You Can’t Get There From Here

Written by Yvette Nolan

Directed by Cole Alvis

Sound by Debashis Sinha

Cast: Nicole Joy-Fraser

Derek Kwan

Meghan Swaby

Playwright Yvette Nolan has taken the title of the series and applied it as the title of this bracing, unsettling audio drama.

The Story. Leah and David are worried about their friend Hanna. They have not been able to reach her by either phone or e-mail for days and they are so worried something has happened to her that they go to her apartment and bang on the door until she lets them in. There are simple references that Leah is Black and David is “Chinese” (as he describes himself). There is the awareness from the three that the sound and sight of people of colour causing such noise might be considered suspicious, so Hanna lets them in quickly. Can I assume that Hanna is Indigenous because Nicole Joy-Fraser who plays her, beautifully, is a mix of Cree and European decent? At one point in the story Hanna says that she saw ‘her people across the room’ and went to join then. I thought that might be a clue that Hanna, like her two friends, might be a minority.

Hanna’s apartment is almost bare. Because of recent events at work (she calls it a ‘debacle’ but with no explanation), she has had enough and is leaving Toronto for Saskatoon. Leah and David are aghast. They feel that she is giving into the bullies who have trolled her on social media (Leah is not on social media), sent her abrasive messages and other unsettling things.

The arguments from her friends to stay are interesting, thoughtful and sometimes whimsical. Hanna’s arguments to leave are also wise and realistic. The people of Toronto are mean and xenophobic. She worked hard to find her little apartment in Cabbagetown (pronounced all snooty as Ca-bahge town). Hanna says that the Toronto she moved to is not the Toronto she lives in and she doesn’t have the fight in her to stay.

The Production and Comment. Playwright Yvette Nolan creates various moments and aspects that are chilling. There are marauding groups of people called “villagers” who one can assume target people who look different from them, such as Hanna, Leah and David. We hear one group late in the play. I think of the disgraceful riot of the Capital Building in Washington. D.C. January 6, 2021. The internet is full of cyber bullies. As are our offices and social areas, all for no better reason than they can. So Hanna has had enough. She is very lucky in her two friends and they appreciate her.

You Can’t Get There From Here is an economical and bracing play that grabs you from the first bang on Hanna’s door and continues to the last smart line. Yvette Nolan deliberately does not explain what ‘the debacle’ is and I don’t think that diminishes the play at all. We live in a world of ‘cancel culture’ where people are forced out of their jobs for the slimmest of reasons.

The acting by Nicole Joy-Fraser as Hanna, Derek Kwan as David and Meghan Swaby as Leah is heartfelt, full of concern and humour. They beautifully establish their friendship and their concern about the world they live in. Director Cole Alvis is attentive to the details and nuance of the piece. And Debashis Sinha has created an evocative soundscape. It got me thinking about my Toronto. Always a good thing.

The Toronto Pigeons

Written by Luke Reece

Directed by Marcel Stewart

Sound by Michelle Bensimon

Cast: Britta B

Trevlyn Kennedy

Luke Reece

This is the last audio play in the You Can’t Get There From Here series for Factory Theatre.

The Story. It’s June 13, 2019 and two pigeons, Trae and A.C., are preparing to watch game 6 of the NBA playoffs between The Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. They will be watching from the top of Jurassic Park in Toronto, on the Jumbotron. They will be scavenging for good eats from garbage cans etc.

Trae is a diehard Raptor’s fan. He thinks of nothing else but the Raptors.  A.C. is more measured in her devotion but still is loyal. Into this scene flies KLAW (is this an homage to Kawhi Leonard), a Kestral from the Kawarthas. KLAW’s family was taken out by a hawk and she flew to Toronto to find a place to be safe.  Both Trae and A.C note how small KLAW is but her talons are lethal and impressive. Trae and A.C. inform KLAW about the Toronto Raptors basketball team. They also inform her of Toronto and how wonderful it is and how everybody is different and fits in.

But truths are told. A.C. informs Trae that he never confronts his problems and uses the Raptors as a distraction. Trae is rude to KLAW and she flies away. I’m thinking that perhaps Trae is so wired for the game, so anxious that his beloved team wins the NBA Championship and so fed up with KLAW’s questions, that he got frustrated and hence, rude. Raptor devotion might do that to a person or pigeon.  

A.C. flies after KLAW to find her to bring her back and eventually Trae goes too—forgoing the game to be a better citizen of Toronto in the sacrifice. It turns out that KLAW does return and just in time to protect her new friends from a predator. Oh, and the Raptors won the game and the championship.  

The Production and comment. I’ve loved this whole series of five audio dramas. They are poignant and tell stories of our diversity and inclusion, or differences and our connection; of sisters who pull together in spite of difficulties, of siblings at odds; loving couples from different continents trying to marry and have children; friends trying to help friends in distress and that goes for pigeons.

I was really impressed by The Toronto Pigeons because Luke Reece wrote it in rhyme akin to rap. (Reece is an award-winning slam poet). It’s smart, edgy, clever, including the strategically placed sound of “pigeon cooing” and is a love letter to the Toronto Raptors as well as the city. I love that notion of home here.

Both Trae and A.C. know the good and the not so good about Toronto but are still fans of the place. They love the noise, the hustle, bustle and secret hiding places for food. They love the chips and dip they find at the games from their high perch. A.C. has a great line that the pigeons are ambassadors of the city—I’ll have more respect for them in future. And their selflessness to go and find KLAW when this important game is playing says a lot about friendship, loyalty and being a good neighbour.

I think The Toronto Pigeons is sweet, smart, funny and wise.

You Can’t Get There From Here, and The Toronto Pigeons plays until September 25 on the Factory Theatre website at

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