Review: The Loyalists (Single Thread Theatre)

Single Thread offers a unique theatrical experience with their production of The Loyalists.

“I was expecting more sitting,” one patron teased another – her date, I think – with a laugh.

Her date was among the first recruited into the action of The Loyalists, and by the time of that churlish remark, she had tramped around quite a bit, too.

Between its five sets – an infirmary, a pub, a little shop, a church, and an American army base – the show encompasses nearly all of Victoria Memorial Square.

So just watching The Loyalists requires some roaming.

Collectively, the sets are a stand-in for the town of York in 1813.

Crossing to the park as the show began, the glowing tent-like structures of the town reminded me of a Nuit Blanche installation.

On arriving in York, locals from the town surreptitiously mingle with the audience; a troop of soldiers marches up. We’re told the British have just departed and the American army is now in charge.

But not to fear …

We’re informed that the Americans plan on keeping things orderly; freedom and property will be preserved under occupation. This address is also used to recruit a few members of the audience into the US force.

Remaining audience members are left to go about life in York. Some of us went to the church, where a sermon was underway; others to the pub to get a drink.

Before long it becomes evident that the “freedom” granted by the American occupation – basically, a corrupt martial law – is a sham.

When a peaceful demonstration in front of the army base ends in violence initiated by an American soldier, locals quietly begin to plot an insurrection. In its execution, virtually every member of the audience is recruited for a role; whether it’s passing a letter, finding a hidden note, acting as a spy, or – in the show I attended – stealing the wheelchair of an American major, there’s no sitting and watching for audience members of The Loyalists.

Produced by Single Thread, the company behind last year’s Much Ado About Nothing at Spadina House, The Loyalists ought to be considered a major success for the company.

Not only does it build on a record of site-specific works around Toronto, The Loyalists comes as close as I’ve ever seen to fully immersing the audience into the plot; driving the show forward.

To me, the experience was somewhere between a choose-your-own-adventure book and wandering through a historical reenactment.

Others commented that The Loyalists was like a role-playing video game, and, capture the flag.

I had a good time and I’d encourage anyone up for a different type of theatre experience to go.




  •  The Loyalists is playing in Victoria Memorial Square (the intersection of Portland and Wellington St. W.) until June 22nd, 2012
  •  Performances begin at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM, with an additional matinée on Saturdays at 5pm
  •  Tickets are $25.oo
  •  Tickets can be purchased before performances at 520 Wellington St. W., or online.