I am so glad I picked Awake as my first show of the Fringe Festival. The venue, Walmer Baptist Church, was perfect for this show that is a tribute to members of the Rexdale / Jamestown community that have died in gang violence related incidents.
The two directors, Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley, did an amazing job with this play. Not only are the stories true but all of the dialogue is unscripted and taken word-for-word from direct interviews of victims families, friends and cops. This is as real as it gets.
It feels like a wake as soon as you walk in. There is a coffin at the front, a podium for the pastor, the altar doubles as a stage and the pews are the seats.
The show starts with one of the actor’s singing “Amazing Grace” and other actors who are also seated throughout the church join in. This really set the tone and the heartfelt voices gave me chills.
Although the setting is a funeral the mood isn’t tense or depressing. There is plenty of great rap, Dancehall, hip-hop, B-Boxing and even some Soca music to break the tension. All the actors play multiple characters and no one leaves the stage so there a lot of cool tableau set-ups.
I should say that this show is extremely personal for me. I lived in Rexdale for 15 years and went to high-school with many kids that have died in gang related violence. Teenagers being stabbed in the school parking lot was not a shocking occurrence at my school.
The beauty of this show is that the actors play their parts with so much rawness and feeling that it can be too much to bear; I mean this in the best possible way. I had to wipe away a few tears myself.
I’m really glad that people are starting to pay some attention to the subject of gang violence instead of looking the other way and writing an entire community off because of socio-economic class or racial stereotypes. There is a problem and it’s bigger than a few bad kids; it’s a vicious cycle that offers no escape.
If you can only watch one show this Fringe, make it Awake. It’s more than just a show and I promise it will change you in some way, or at the very least the way you view gang violence.
There was a Q&A session with the actors, directors and one of the victims mother’s whose life this story is based on. It was great to see that almost every audience member stayed and gave them a standing ovation.
Director: Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley
Choreographer: Nicola Pantin
Cast: Richard Stewart, Beryl Bain, Moui Nene, Quancetia Hamilton, Mayoori, U.R.V.
Genre: Drama, Dance
Venue 15 Walmer Baptist Church (Site Specific at 188 Lowther Ave)
Wed, July 6 8:00PM
Thu, July 7 8:00PM
Fri, July 8 8:00PM
Sat, July 9 8:00PM
Sun, July 10 8:00PM
Tue, July 12 8:00PM
Wed, July 13 8:00PM
Thu, July 14 8:00PM
Fri, July 15 8:00PM
Sat, July 16 8:00PM
Sun, July 17 8:00PM
Ticket Price: $10.00
Tickets: www.fringetoronto.com / (416) 966-1062
Advance Ticket Box Office at The Fringe Club, 581 Bloor St. W.
Photo credit to Expect Theatre Company. In photo: entire cast.