Tell Me. (Obliviate Theatre) promises an open tarot reading; one of us will have our fortune told, and the rest will see how the magic works. Seven of us are crowded into a tiny shed at Toronto Fringe Festival headquarters to see Grace Thompson do her thing. Some are excited, some are skeptical.
This isn’t the straightforward display it purports to be, however; anyone looking to experience or debunk fortune-telling may be disappointed, but if you’re looking for a sharp and haunting vignette about whether it’s possible to change the future, head to the shed.
Thompson asks for volunteers, and some audience members seem game. Her focus, though, shifts to a young woman leaning against the door, who is insistent on participating. Kate has been having this weird dream, and she wants to know something about it. She feels stuck in a cycle. She’s passionate, unsettled and loud, and a battle for the direction of the reading begins. She’s also sure she knows the increasingly frustrated tarot reader from somewhere.
“Is this real?” the person next to me asked, as the scene unfolded. I didn’t want to inform her that Kate was a plant (actor Kate Maguire), but it probably became clear after a few minutes, as the banter was too thematically tight and well delivered to be a spur-of-the-moment conversation.
Kate disagrees with almost every card that gets turned up and explained. She doesn’t think she’ll find love later in her life; she feels that ship has sailed with a relationship she’s ruined. She doesn’t think she’ll get out of her rut. She questions the usefulness of telling people bad news about the future; can they prevent it, or will they even listen? Thompson is more optimistic, arguing that no knowledge is wasted.
In the end, many questions still linger, and the mystery remains. A moment of connection passes between the women that is widely interpretable. We’re left unsettled, but with the hope that Kate may see what’s in the cards and make some changes. We’re also left with goody bags of candy and a palmistry chart.
Tell Me. has strong writing, with a surprisingly philosophical bent. Even if you’re a fortune-telling skeptic (myself included), the performances are utterly convincing.
- Tell Me. is playing until July 8 at the Fringe Club, Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West)
- The performance includes mature language and mild audience participation.
Tell Me. poster courtesy of Obliviate Theatre