Theatre by Committee presents Lion in the Streets on stage in Toronto
Lion in the Streets, the surreal story of a murdered 9-year-old and the community where she lost her life, opened last weekend at the Glad Day Bookshop. Put on by the seven-member collective Theatre By Committee, the show has moments of extremely compelling drama but due to the bizarre nature of the script these often give way to moments of confusion for the audience.
The small upstairs space has been completely transformed for the show. The walls were fully covered in debris and garbage bags with further wreckage scattered around the set. Alongside the set, the actors were sitting when we walked into the space and blended well with the haphazard set pieces. Together it created an eerie atmosphere right off the bat that prefaced the immersive feeling of the show itself.
The show goes on to explore two stories. First, Isobel, who was murdered at the age of nine and is seeking her killer from the after life. Second, the story of the community that surrounded her in her life. I found the latter story much more compelling, and the interjections of Isobel felt more distracting than anything in comparison to the focused and intense drama of the neighborhood.
I was expecting that at some point these two stories would tie together, and I was disappointed when they didn’t. It seemed to me like two completely separate plots that didn’t have any reason for being thrown together and wished some more light had been shed on why they were.
This was the first of two problems I had with the script itself, the second being the extreme endings of most of the scenes. While the actors did a phenomenal job of creating many different characters — all of whom were grasping at the ends of their ropes — the script almost always took the scenes too far to be believable and thus pulled me out of any investment I had in the characters.
That aside, there were quite a few moments where the acting completely immersed me in the story. Lindsey Middleton and Jonathan Walls were particular standouts in the multiple roles they played. Middleton as characters ranging from a desperate housewife to a woman who just found out she’s dying, and Walls soaring as anything from a guilty priest to a repressed researcher. I was impressed at the cast overall and their ability to push their characters to the edge of sanity while also attempting to keep up the social veneer of their community.
Overall, while there were ups and downs in the piece, I was thrilled to see the work of a promising young theatre company. Many elements of this production, from the acting to the direction to the design, made me excited to see what they will put on next. I would highly recommend seeing Lion in the Streets to get a glimpse of what I think could be an expanding theatre company in the city.
- Lion in the Streets is playing November 26th to 29th at the Glad Day Bookshop (598 Yonge Street)
- Show time is 8 pm
- Tickets are $20 at the door of $15 in advance (and can be purchased online)
Poster image provided by Theatre By Committee