Review: Festival of Ideas and Creation (Canadian Stage)

This year’s free Festival of Ideas and Creation in Toronto is themed ‘sound and music’

I’ve never been to a stage festival before so I went into the Festival of Ideas and Creation (runs from May 9-13) without any expectations. I’ll admit, I was excited for a grab-bag style of evening, with readings and short performances, and lots of variety to keep me interested.

The overall theme at this year’s Festival of Ideas and Creation is sound and music, a theme they stayed true to, based on the three performances I attended. Those who are interested in attending the Festival can choose to see one, or all, performances in the evening and each event is completely free. All you have to do is reserve tickets online before the show, although there is a rush line for last minute tickets.

Housed in the Berkeley Street Theatre, there are several performance spaces in this oddly shaped structure, which allowed different events to take place in different theatres, or rooms. The first performance I saw was called Noor Over Afghan, an opera piece that takes the meaning of my sister’s keeper to a whole new level. The audience saw the first 40 minutes of the show and it only included the opera songs; there were no costumes, no set, with only veils to help simplify the story and differentiate between characters. After it was over, the audience was invited to fill out a brief questionnaire asking which character resonated the most with them, if they had any questions about the performance and more. As there were a few things that were confusing to me about this brief performance, I didn’t hesitate to fill out the form, and I’d be curious to learn how much the writer and composer will take audience suggestions into account going forward with the production.

After the first performance was over, audience members mingled and were offered cheese and crackers, brownies and cake pops that I could only assume were from Starbucks, one of their sponsors. The first performance started late and ran late, thus causing the second performance to also start late. The audience for the second production had to kill time in the chilly outdoor courtyard as the staff dealt with technical issues in the theatre where the second show would take place. This felt very disorganized and we weren’t able to see the second piece until over a half-hour after it was meant to start.

The second performance was called Ocean Carving and told the interesting immigration story of a Toronto woman who swam from mainland China to Hong Kong all in efforts for a better life. With only two actors, this piece was very interesting as it used video, music and movement to tell the fascinating tale.

The final piece was titled In Conversation with Jason Rutledge and offered a very relaxed atmosphere with an interview component and a chance to hear him play some music from his newest project The Arsonists.

Because each night of the Festival is different, each person who attends will have a different experience. Aside from the disorganization of the evening, I found it really enjoyable to check out a few different shows that I might not otherwise see. A lot of the pieces that are being performed will later become full productions, and these short pieces almost serve as previews so that you can be sure to attend the full performance when it does hit the theatre circuit. Plus with an amazing price tag (free!), you really can’t go wrong.

Details:

The Festival of Ideas and Creations is playing at Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street) until May 13, 2012
– Shows run from May 9 – May 13, with the earliest show starting at 7pm and the latest show starting at 9:30pm
– All tickets are free and are available online and at 416-368-3110; a limited number of tickets will be available at the door and rush tickets for sold out shows will be released 5 minutes before the show (with the rush line beginning one hour before the show)