by Lynn on May 28, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont. Playing until June 9, 2024.

Written by Audrey Dwyer

Directed by Mike Payette

Set by Jawon Kang

Costumes by Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound and composers, Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan

Cast: Troy Adams

Helen Belay

Daren A. Herbert

Nicole Joy-Fraser

Emerjade Simms

Unsettled Scores: Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan

From the programme notes:

“When John Hall is confronted by his ancestors, he is forced to revisit his entire life.

Worlds collide as he travels back through time rediscovering life as a husband, father, son, war scout and freedom fighter. As he relives his dangerous past, John must decide – continue life as the oldest man, abandon everything and serve those on the earthly plane or exist in the Unknown.

Based on true events, Come Home – The Legend of Daddy Hall is told through poetic text, music and song. A play about the afterlife, love, legacy and being legendary. Come Home asks where we come from, where we’re headed and what we may be asked to do when we get there.”

From the playwright: “John Hall walked in this very neighbourhood (around Tarragon Theatre) hundreds of years ago. He lived throughout Ontario. He was married multiple times, had many children, escaped enslavement twice (crossing through deep bodies of water), was in the War of 1812, and died at a very old age. My research provided numerous tales of major differences and a few similarities. One thing was made clear: John spent miles travelling searching for home.

I begin to think about John’s relationship with his family, the land he lived on and the relationships he made along the way. He was guided by those he met and surely, those who left him far too early. I considered John’s long life and the ways certain relationships were severed. It made me think of ancestral lineage and what it means to cross over. Can your steps from life to death be legendary?….”

Audrey Dwyer.

This is a full-bodied production. The set by Jawon Kang is magical and mysterious as we peer through the tangle of hanging ‘branches’ ‘foliage’ overgrowth over time, until the growth is pushed aside and we see into the action of John Hall’s (Daren A. Herbert) life.

Similarly Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart’s costumes are vibrant and evocative. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is eerie with the sense of the past and deep mystery. As always the score of Unsettled Scores, Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magawon is almost like another character, adding to the feeling of the story.

Daren A. Herbert as John “Daddy” Hall is both an innocent, a charmer and a rascal as the ever-attractive Daddy Hall, who never met a person, man or woman, he could not charm. The rest of the cast is does good work.

There is directorial detail in Mike Payette’s direction. He conveys the sense of the mystery of John Hall’s life.

Audrey Dwyer’s text is like lyrical poetry with line after line of description that again adds to the mystery of John Hall’s life. But I must confess that without the programme notes, or explanations of the play and the wonderful Google, I would have no idea what this show is about, who John Hall was, why he mattered, who he was, or that it flipped back and forth in time. I can appreciate wanting to find home and find out who he was (was he a Black man? And Indigenous person? Both?), but without a clear narrative along with the esoteric poetry this ‘play’ left me confused and frustrated.

Tarragon Theatre Presents:

Plays until June 9, 2024.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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