Review: Lab Cab Festival

In summer, for me, if feels as if Toronto theatre starts with Fringe, moves on to Summerworks and then kind of fizzles out. That’s because, until Sunday, I hadn’t been to the Lab Cab Festival. Now I wish I could travel back in time (I’ve been watching Dr. Who) and go to the previous five festivals.

What a fabulous way to wrap up the summer.  In 3 and a half hours I saw 2 films, 3 plays, 2 readings, 4 music groups, and 4 art exhibits. And that was about a third of what was available. “The mandate of the Lab Cab Festival is to provide a home for local artists of various disciplines to experiment with new work in a fun and risk-free environment.” There were more than 50 artists involved in this year’s Lab Cab Festival. The festival runs for two days at Factory Theatre.

If you’ve been to see shows at Factory you’ll know that it’s an old rambling building full of nooks and crannies, connecting hallways and three or four staircases. There were shows in the hallways, the lobbies, the staircases, the kitchen, the rehearsal hall, the lounge, an office, the courtyard and the bathroom as well as in the theatres.

I really wanted to see 5 Minutes in the Bathroom with Jeannie Calleja and tried 4 times but the bathroom was full every time. (It must have been the women’s bathroom.) Capacity is 8 people and there were 4 shows on each day. 64 people got to see the show. It’s wonderful that there’s somewhere that a performer can present a show to 64 people; that only 64 lucky people got to see this.

The tiny venues fascinate me. I saw The Stover Recordings, by Gordon Bolan featuring Greg Ellwand, in Ken’s Office. Yeah, that was one of the venues.  4 chairs and 4 standing for an audience of 8. 3 performances a day for 2 days. 48 people got to see this perfect 20 minute play that had me laughing and crying. A perfect morsel of theatre.

If we’re going with a food analogy the the Lab Cab Festival is like tapas, small dishes with something for everyone.There’s drama, comedy, art, music, stuff for adults and stuff for kids.

Speaking of kids, there’s free childcare provided by Nannies on Call and the festival starts with a free pancake breakfast from 12 to 12.30. In fact the whole Lab Cab Festival is free.

Put in in your calendar for next year.  Even though I only saw about a third of what was offered I have no hesitation in recommending everything. One third is a pretty good sample and the stuff I saw was great so I assume the rest is great too. It’s on my calendar for next year.


Lab Cab Festival took place at Factory Theatre on September 3rd and 4th, 2011.