Barbara Lorraine Laing opens her performance of Dreamplace & The Blackbox Memoir at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Fest by briefly describing what we are about to experience. It is a 45-minute work-in-progress that experiments with poetry as a storytelling method.
I had my reservations. I was also curious to see how an actor could pull off a solo show in the Tent at the Fringe Club.
Meet Theresa, a 31-year-old woman who speaks to us at times from the bottom of the ocean. She takes us on a journey of memory that begins in an airplane and ends with a walk in the rain.
She recounts her various relationships: we learn about her parents, about the heartache she felt when her earliest friend renounced her for teaching her about sex. We hear about how Theresa moved across an ocean to marry “you”, an illusory boyfriend she addresses in second person throughout.
For those easily daunted by poetry, Barbara’s script weaves poetically. The poetry is in her language and not necessarily in the play’s format.
The set is decorated with a few of the trappings of Catholicism—a Jesus triptych hangs from the top of the tent, there are holy candles on a table and plastic flowers cling to the tent poles. A neon orange box sits centre stage and contains the objects of Theresa’s memory: a CCM hockey helmet, a neck pillow, a copy of Little Women.
The main character talks about floating and dreams she has where her spirit leaves her body and she screams to get it back. I felt that sense of hovering. I felt that of all the places where the storytelling takes us, we never really land in any of them. The audience goes on a whirlwind tour of memory stopping only to take a snapshot before being whisked away to the next adventure.
The Tent is not an ideal venue for this performance; Barbara had her work cut out for her as she was competing against opening-night Fringe revelers and show promoters. However, because the space is so limited, there is great opportunity for special and intimate moments between the performer and the audience.
Barbara finds them. Barbara charms us. Barbara makes us laugh.
- Dreamplace & The Blackbox Memoir plays at Alleyplays in the Fringe Club Tent (@Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. W)
- Showtimes: Thurs July 5 @6:30 pm, Fri July 6 @8:30 pm, Sat July 7 @6:30 pm, Sun July 8 @8:30 pm, Tues July 10 @6:30, Thurs July 12 @8:30, Sat July 14 @8:30 pm
- Tickets to this show are PWYC (Pay-What-You-Can) and can be purchased directly at Alleyplays in the Fringe Club Tent
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, or by phone at 416-966-1062 (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows