Do You Remember Me? (G.I.A. Productions) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review

Do You Remember Me? It is a poignant question that we hear echo through the history books. Sometimes the answers that we seek in the present may be discovered if we listen to the voices of the past. After all, they are our ancestors. They know where we’re coming from.

G.I.A. Productions has given their ancestors a voice. The audience is welcomed to a museum exhibit, where generational representatives of African American history have been placed on display. The four exhibition couples represent God’s creation of man, the African homeland, the period of enslavement, and the modern age.

The audience witnesses how the couples interact within the socially and politically defined barriers of their era. After establishing the relationships between each couple, the education of the newest generation commences. Blame is thrown everywhere, but ownership of personal choices and historical pride is the end result.

It was delightful to attend a show where the “white theatre population” actually became the minority. The play has effectively reached its target audience and actually prompted viewers to walk in off the streets to attend their first theatrical production. One woman claimed it was the first theatre production that she’s heard of that has informative content which speaks directly to her generation’s cultural family concerns.

Theatre education is often used as a forum to impart notions to the masses. For that reason, it is sometimes dismissed for becoming too idea-centric. This dilemma did not prove to be a hindrance for this slam-poetry based production. The writing has a poetic flow that builds towards impassioned arguments of great theatrical potential.

The performers are very comfortable with their text, but they have not yet fully developed their portrayal of each distinct generation’s characters. I often thought that the actors were holding back, rather than acting upon the words they were saying. They would often drop their eyes to the floor, or disengage from their scene partner at certain points.

Throughout the play, many audience members sat with their eyes closed. At moments, it seemed almost preferable to blindly listen to the artists, than to actually watch the visual presentation. The company had great wisdom to impart within their script, but the theatrical exchanges did not fully support their text.

In the select moments where the actors became fully engaged with the text and let their bodies follow their passionate arguments, they were instantly rewarded by the audience. When the first man of God (Adam) reprimanded the youngest generation, his energy completely engaged the audience. In fact, audience members were so supportive of the guidance, that many began freely vocalizing their agreements.

This could be due to the arrangement of the intimate space. The company had the opportunity to use the length of the venue and the proximity of the audience to their advantage. They seldom seized upon that possibility.

If they had, they could directly bring their messages into the audience area, to gather further support for their arguments. Instead, they remained at the end of the space in a separated stage area, which physically restrained them from the opportunity to physically connect with their text. Fortunately, an unconventional space means the company has the chance to explore their environment in new ways every time.

Do you Remember Me? is a production that helps their audience become proud of their bodies, heritage, and strength of character. It’s time to “retract the black legacy, restore the black family.” The answers are waiting in the past. But are you ready to remember?

Details

  • Do You Remember Me? Plays at Venue 20, B.A.N.D. Gallery, 823A Bloor St. W.
  • Showtimes are: July 05, Thursday, 9 pm; July 06, Friday 7 pm; July 07, Saturday, 9:15 pm; July 08, Sunday, 1 pm; July 08, Sunday 4 pm; July 09, Monday, 9 pm; July 10, Tuesday, 9 pm
  • All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are also available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
  • Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows