You Are (Not) Dead (Earnest Artist Productions) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of You Are (Not) Dead by the company.You Are (Not) Dead, a one-woman Shed Show about first loves, first heartbreaks, and mental illness, is currently playing inside the Fringe Club at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Performer/Director/Writer Katie Bell packs a lot into this 30-minute show, but her sensitive and heartfelt delivery of the difficult material shows a lot of promise.

Shed Shows are a curious beast. If you haven’t attended one before, Shed Shows are short 20-40 minute shows that are performed inside a shed located at the Fringe Club behind Honest Ed’s. The tight spacing forces the audience to get up-close-and-personal with the performers while they figure out how to provide an immersive theatrical experience within the constraints of an extremely small playing area. I have always enjoyed Shed Shows despite the heat but I am happy to report this year that the shed is not only a little bigger, but it’s actually outfitted with air-conditioning.

Katie Bell’s Shed Show, You Are (Not) Dead, recounts the life of sixteen year old Abby, whose joyous experience of her teenager firsts are soon overcast by the shadow of mental illness.

Katie Bell is a charming performer and she admirably kept her focus over the din of jazz and conversation from the Club, with only one brief exception. As someone who has a lot personal experience with mental health issues, I was impressed with the sensitivity and accuracy of Bell’s writing. While mental illness can be triggered by traumatic events, most of the danger lies in how it prevents one from functioning on a day-to-day basis and Bell really picks up on those moments.

However there were some segments that could do with some editing and even Bell herself seemed to struggle at times with how fast she had to speak to get all the words out. As well, I wished there was more movement towards the latter end of the show, as it was hard to keep my focus on her when the noise from outside was particularly loud.

I would also suggest that Bell engage with the audience more. When the performer is that close to the audience, the whole talking-to-a-spot-on-the-wall technique can read as a little unsettling.

But all-in-all, Bell still did a fine job telling a story that should be told and heard more often in You Are (Not) Dead.

Details

  • You Are (Not) Dead is a Shed Show and plays at the Fringe Club, located in Honest Ed’s parking lot (581 Bloor St. West).
  • All Shed Shows are Pay What You Can (PWYC).
  • This show is approximately 30 min long.
  • Outdoor seating
  • Content Warnings: Mature language, Trigger Warning for discussion (but not depiction) of suicide and self-harm.
  • The venue is listed as not wheelchair accessible.

Performances

  • July 1st, 6.40, 7.20, 8.00 PM
  • July 2nd, 8.40, 9.20, 10.00 PM
  • July 4th, 4.40, 5.20, 6.00 PM
  • July 6th, 6.40, 7.20, 8.00 PM
  • July 8th, 8.40, 9.20, 10.00 PM
  • July 9th, 2.40, 3.20, 4.00 PM

Photo provided by the company.