By Megan Mooney
If I had to choose one word to describe Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen playing at Harbourfront’s worldstage it would be "interesting".
People have been blown away by this show, raving about it. When I was leaving the theatre I could hear people all around me saying how amazing they thought it was. I felt like maybe I was missing something. I thought the show was interesting, and there were some very cool things about it, but amazing is not the word that leapt to mind.
It’s hard to clearly explain what it is, so let me tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t a simple narrative. There isn’t a clear easy to follow story. It isn’t quiet. It isn’t easy. In fact, it felt more like what people like to call "performance art" rather than traditional theatre. Personally, I think performance art is a type of theatre, but it’s a useful label sometimes to describe something that is indescribable.
In this case, what we see on stage is carefully crafted chaos.
13 actors explore adolescence on the stage. They do it by showing us, not telling us. The show starts with a scene with all the actors going crazy on stage doing different things, living their life. Play fighting, flirting, rebelling, yelling, and generally being teenagers in a crowd.
For the rest of the show, this scene is repeated over and over again. But don’t worry, it’s not a skipping record. It’s not 55 minutes of identical action over and over again, the scene is played in different ways. It’s only identical the first two times.
That first take is repeated twice, This allowed me to learn bits of the scene so I would recognize them later, but it also meant I got to see more of the scene. 13 people all in action at the same time means that there is so much going on it’s impossible to take it all in with one viewing.
But from there, every scene is a different approach to the same material. Each one seems to focus on different aspects of adolescence. The fear of not fitting in, and the fear of being the same as everyone else. The unchecked hormones. The feeling of invisibility. The things that make up a teenager.
The piece was interesting, well handled, and there was a lot of talent on the stage. But it didn’t engage me the way I like to be engaged in theatre. I should mention though that I saw the show with a cold, so I was a bit tired, a bit cranky, and had a pretty hard time with the volume of the show.
Mostly though, I was interested to see that it would appear adolescence is the same in Belgium as it is in Canada, but fundamentally I was just watching a slice of my past. There were no revelations for me. Well, other than being reminded that I miss the St. George’s dances of my teen years in Guelph.
I’m glad I went to it. Partially because it was interesting, but also because I wanted to know what all the hype was about. I’m still not sure on the latter, but am perfectly willing to admit that I might be missing something.
Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen is in Toronto for an ultra-short run, in fact, there’s only one show left and it’s tonight. So, if you want to have seen this show that everyone’s talking about, you’d better get there right away.
– Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen is playing until Saturday February 20, 2010 at the Enwave theatre (Harbourfront)
– Showtime is at 8pm
– Tickets are $30 and available online and by telephone at 416-973-4000
Photo of the cast of Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen by Phile Deprez