Sitting in a waiting room surrounded by abstract paintings, a long divan, some lantern lights, and a rocking chair; all interspersed among other knickknacks – this is how your experience begins. You don’t yet know that you’ll soon be taken from one area of Loft 404 to another to witness the fully immersive experience at the 2012 Toronto Fringe that is the blood projects‘ Little Tongues, but you’re in for a treat.
As soon as you and your fellow patrons are ushered in to the loft space where the play actually takes place, you are welcomed in by the delicious smell of Abigail’s (Melee Hutton) cooking. This happens because you walk through her kitchen. Or stay there, your choice.
That’s the beauty of this staging, save for a few rules you’re instructed on before your entrance, you’re allowed to stand/sit anywhere in this loft and pick you own vantage point for the play that’s about to happen.
This first experience summarises in large part why I love this kind of theatre. Rather than being separated from the actors by the trappings of a stage and seats, you’re there standing with them, living their story in the same time and place. Additionally, the performance allows, and to a degree encourages, the audience to move around the space along with the actors as the action unfolds.
As an audience member you might feel a little conspicuous or self-aware being this close to the action, but think about how the actors must feel. They have nowhere to hide. If something goes wrong, they can’t simply turn around or look away from the audience, because the audience is everywhere.
They also have to find a way to continue telling their story with all of us standing around; crowding what was undoubtedly a much emptier space during rehearsal. Not once did any of them so much as flinch because of us, and the resulting piece was incredible to behold.
The plot is simple but effective. There’s a dinner party being thrown in honor of Abigail’s daughter leaving for a trip the next day. The whole family’s invited, and laughter quickly turns to drama. This may sound trivial, but Sasha Singer-Wilson’s tight script feels genuine the whole way through, and doesn’t make it easy to choose who (if anyone) is right and who is wrong in the inevitable disputes.
To me the entire experience was rather astounding, and while a few tiny details were off (a line flub here, an incongruous computer screen there), the piece was so visceral it was impossible to dwell on them as my focus was literally pulled in all directions.
I should probably mention that if you have issues with being in very close quarters with other people, and require a minimum amount of personal space, you may have difficulty in finding a spot that will allow you to be fully comfortable for the 90 minute runtime.
If like me however you love being in the middle of the action, or if you’re looking for that Fringe show that will really offer you something different from the status quo – this is the play for you.
- Little Tongues plays at Venue 26 – Loft 404, The Ambrosia Hub (263 Adelaide St. W)
- Showtimes are: July 05, Thursday, 8:00 PM; July 06, Friday, 8:00 PM; July 07, Saturday, 7:00 PM; July 07, Saturday, 10:00 PM; July 10, Tuesday, 8:00 PM; July 11, Wednesday, 8:00 PM; July 12, Thursday, 7:00 PM; July 12, Thursday, 10:00 PM; July 13, Friday, 8:00 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