by Lynn on March 21, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person and now closed, at Five Points Theatre, produced by Talk is Free Theatre, Barrie, Ont., closed after a three-performance run on March 19.

Written and performed by Nathaniel Hanula-James

Costumes by Hannah Fisher

Sound by Ryan Wilcox

Arkady Spivak, the energetic CEO of Talk is Free Theatre, has a keen ability for finding talent then gently pushing them forward with challenging options to display that talent. Witness the smart direction of performer Michael Torontow in Into the Woods that then catapulted Torontow into being appointed the Artistic Director of Talk is Free Theatre. Witness designer Joe Pagnan going from designing sets and costumes to creating whole technological worlds through a play for the Bees in the Bush Festival, and beyond. And most recently there is Nathaniel Hanula-James, a gifted actor who has written and performed his play, Untitled Flaming Play that just finished a too short run at Five Points Theatre for Talk is Free Theatre.

The subject of Untitled Flamingo Play and the method of performing it is fascinating. Put Nathaniel Hanula-James on your theatre radar. From the program:

Untitled Flamingo Play is TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) for the grown-up gay. This object theater solo performance follows two children, Addison and Helen, and their search for queer roll models in a big scary heterocisnormative world. The universe of this play is zany and irreverent; eight-year-olds quip like Oscar Wilde; kids use Grindr on the playground; stuffed animals dispense questionable advice. Beneath all the hijinks, however, Untitled Flamingo Play has a purpose: to defy and complicate the tropes of mainstream narratives.”

The set is simple: an old-fashioned wood coat-tree stands upstage right. In the centre is a high table covered in a black cloth, on which are various props and bright-coloured fuzzy, plush animals.

Nathaniel Hanula-James enters from upstage in a flowing pink dressing gown over a pink, patterned ‘hoodie’ and pink roomy pants. He takes off the dressing gown and hangs it on the coat-tree. The problem is that the table obstructs my view of him and it’s important to establish that ‘look’ for the full effect. He’s making a statement. We have to see it clearly.

Nathaniel Hanula-James tells the story of Addison and Helen by depicting them with plush-toys. Addison is in grade three, is cheerful, exuberant and eager to please. His mother frets that because he is different, does not act like the other kids, he will be bullied. His mother gives him a pink flamingo toy to keep in his knapsack, for comfort. Addison is so eager to impress he shows the class his pink flamingo. Helen is his soulmate. She doesn’t fit in either. Their teacher is depicted as a wonderful pink, plump, curly ‘haired’ toy who tells Addison to be his authentic self. Fitting in. Being your authentic self. Finding one’s soul mate to get through being different is what this show is about.

Hanula-James is a smart, creative, fearless creator. He and his costume designer Hannah Fisher have come up with a costume that is bold and in your face and there is a bit of theatrics at the end with part of the costume, that is terrific.

I hope Nathaniel Hanula-James keeps working on the show and perfecting it.

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