I am wary of one-person shows for I fear the all-too-common phenomenon of an actor desperately trying to show me his or her range. Granted, there is a decidedly actor-ly vibe to It’s Just a Stage We’re Going Through Theatre Company’s production of Just Lift Your Feet at the Robert Gill Theatre. And there is desperation too, but not of the sort I feared. Here is the naked vulnerability of a character who desperately wants to connect to herself and the world in some meaningful way.
From a Q&A after the performance, I learned that this is a work-in-progress. It is a good thing to keep in mind while watching this production. The text suggests a process of on-going artistic and personal exploration.
This is the story of Morgan, a performance artist desperately trying to reconcile the conflicting aspects of her creativity. These aspects manifest themselves as very distinct personalities—elegantly represented by the very nimble Heather Allin (who also wrote the piece). She effectively captures both the tyrannical and gentle aspects of the creative psyche.
The stage is set—a forest. The performer enters—Morgan. I cringed as I watched Allin’s character (a performance artist) try to connect to nature. Her attempts are stilted and awkward, which is the point. Morgan is an artist who has lost touch with who she is and what she wants to say. She has come to the forest to be inspired, not realizing the absurdity of bringing artificial representations of nature (LED candles and plastic sticks) on her woodland retreat.
The text touches on issues of fear and control, and of integrity versus commerciality; It does so on two levels—intellectually and viscerally. For the most part, this production works best on this later visceral level. When the text becomes didactic (as it often does), it falters somewhat because it relies heavily on clichés.
When the various voices in Allin’s portrayal of Morgan converse, there is an artificiality to the device that I find alienating. She often swings her body back and forth, or employs tell-tale gestures to indicate the presence of a particular voice. These are standard devices and they are certainly functional in this context, but it is just not a performance style of which I am particularly fond.
In Just Lift Your Feet, Heather Allin’s performance is stronger than her writing… and that’s ok. I like the ideas she is examining here; they are concerned with personal meaning and the artistic process—subjects I’m quite drawn to.
There is a decidedly self-indulgent aspect to the production, but it certainly suits the content. Heather Allin’s performance is evocative. Her physicality and vocal strengths are particularly showcased here. Her presence is genuine and vulnerable.
For anyone with a taste for the self-reflective and poetic, this is intriguing theatre.
- Just Lift Your Feet is playing at the Robert Gill Theatre (214 College St.).
- July 3 – 10:30pm
July 5 – 5:15pm
July 6 – 7:30pm
July 8 – 3:00pm
July 9 – 8:30pm
July 10 – 2:00pm
July 13 – 10:30pm
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photo of Heather Allin by Grace Paulionis and Lars Keffer