by Lynn on June 15, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Lighthouse Artspace, 1 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ont. An Ouside the March Production, presented by Starvox Entertainment, in Association with Modern Times Stage Company, with support from Hilltop Studios and the BMO Lab. Plays until July 2.

Creator, performer and co-director, Sébastien Heins

Co-director, Mitchell Cushman

Dramaturg and story editor, Rosamund Small

Set designed by Anahita Dehbonehie

Sound designed by Heidi Chan

Lighting designed by Melissa Joakim

Project designer, Laura Warren

Costume designer, Niloufar Ziaee

Lead game developer, Aidan Wong

A love-letter of a show from a devoted son to his devoted mother, using video games, among other things, to tell the story.

When actor/creator Sébastian Heins was a teenager, his mother bought him his first Game Boy. He was obsessed with playing video games. As his mother drove the car Sébastian Heins sat in the backseat playing video games on his Game Boy.

It’s obvious from the narrative of No Save Points that Heins is devoted to his family, and his mother in particular. From his description Heins’ mother is calm, confident, determined, joyful, loving, pragmatic, accomplished (she sells real estate) and fearless in dealing with her challenges. The most obvious challenge is living with Huntington’s Disease (HD). It’s a progressive brain disorder caused by a defective gene. This disease causes changes in the central area of the brain, which affect movement, mood and thinking skills. There is no cure.  

His mother was born and raised in Jamaica. When Heins was growing up he had no desire to go there and investigate his roots. That changed in his 20s when he went to Jamaica to his mother’s town. He was walking along a street and saw a woman who had the same ‘unusual’ walk as his mother, jerky, seemingly unsteady. As the woman got closer he saw that she looked exactly like his mother. In fact, she was his aunt.

For a time his mother’s unsteady walk was thought to be an inner ear issue affecting balance. When his mother was tested it was discovered she had Huntington’s Disease and so did his aunt. It’s hereditary. To see if the HD gene was passed on to Heins he would have to do a test, and, no, I’m not telling if he had the test or the results—see the show for yourself, and you should.

So what does this all have to do with a show that is heavy on technology and video games?

Sébastian Heins has fashioned a show that is for people familiar with video games and those who are not. In the first segment Heins introduces his love of Game Boy etc. and announces that four people have been picked from the audience, who have indicated a love of the video game format. They are each introduced and are seated on platforms, given their own specially formatted Game Boy and when called upon, will operate the buttons etc. that will then activate a slight ‘charge’ in a belt that he wears that then affects his movements. This gives the audience a sense of the randomness of movement that his Mother experiences.

In another segment Heins introduces four video games that have been especially created for No Save Points, each connected to the issues his Mother experiences. They are named: “Hopeful Monster, co-conspirator, Damien Atkins; Windrush Returns, co-conspirator, Rouvan Silogix; Miasma, co-conspirator, Aylwin Lo; and The Itinerary co-conspirator, Kami King. Heins is involved in each game. He stands behind a scrim (he’s visible to the audience) onto which is projected the video icon of each game. Those who want to be involved in “playing” the game put up their hand in the audience and are given a device to move the icon either left, right or to jump. Heins will copy the movement of the icon behind the scrim, assuming the device works—at one point a participant said, “Move to the right”, the device doesn’t work. It’s a testament to Sébastian Heins’ abilities as an actor that he is so dexterous and present in the game and the show that he can easily adapt to any glitch (including the noise of a cell phone going off at an inopportune time—more on that later).

Some audience members were more adept at the video game than others, knowing when and how to move the icon and therefore Heins, forward, backward and to jump. If I have a quibble it’s that at times the games playing went on a bit too long. The real heart of the show is the heart of Sébastian Heins and his mother. The perfect melding of game and personal story involved “The Itinerary.” Sébastian Heins asked his mother what was on her bucket list when her health started to deteriorate. She wanted to go to Egypt. He would make it happen. He was determined. But the reality was that his mother was not sure she could do it and insisted it be cancelled.

In the video game of “The Itinerary” a character is in outer space and the space ship is hit by a meteor and the air supply is compromised and the character has only so many hours before the air runs out. The itinerary is of how the character spends his last hours. Looking at pictures of himself and his Mother catches ones breath; puts a face to the urgency of the situation and squeezes the heart.

No Save Points is a herculean project of technical complexity, theatrical ingenuity and clever stagecraft thanks to all concerned especially co-director Mitchell Cushman. But the heart and soul of the piece belongs to the grace of Sébastian Heins and his fearless mother. It was an honour to be in your company.

An Ouside the March Production, presented by Starvox Entertainment, in Association with Modern Times Stage Company, with support from Hilltop Studios and the BMO Lab.

Plays until July 2, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours.

About that annoying cell phone.

God I hate those damned, noisy cellphones going off in a theatre. How can you not hear the announcement to turn them off? In this case there was no announcement but still….

About a half hour into the show a strange beeping sound was heard near me. INFURIATING! It went on and on. “TURN THE DAMNED THING OFF” I’m saying to myself. It stopped then beeped again. Sébastian Heins was gracious about it. The sound was close. It was coming from my feet. From my backpack. MY GOD—the fool with the turned on cell phone was me! I quickly pulled the zip to open it, but I have a tear in the zipper (gotta get that fixed), and it jammed. Until I finally got it open, saw that it was an international call from a friend in Australia where it is tomorrow already and when I tapped the red phone icon to turn it off, nothing happened. (Hello technology). I tapped harder. Nothing. The nice younger person next to me fiddled and finally the offending noise stopped. I am SOOOOO embarrassed and apologetic. All the folks connected to the show who approached me were gracious and classy. Needless to say, it will never happen again. Truly.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peter Rand June 16, 2023 at 12:28 am

……..totally honest reviews AND confessional – so admirable Lynn ……… well………forgiven this time………


2 Lynn June 16, 2023 at 8:07 am

Much thanks Peter…Kind of you re:forgiven. There will be no next time. I was mortified….GOD!!!!!