One of the first scenes in Derailed (playing at the SummerWorks Festival) hit me square between the eyes. Two actors, a man and a woman, board a train. He thinks we’re going somewhere exotic: “I’m so excited to finally see your roots!” She’s more down-to-earth “It’s just Scarborough Town Centre. My roots are on an island.”
It’s an excellent start to a show about expectation, social pressure, self-image and–above all else–identity. The young members of the AMY Project have collaborated with mentors to create an entire show about their experiences, realities, feelings and identities, and they have every right to be proud of what they’ve created.
The show is a series of vignettes, and some are stronger than others. The strongest sequences include an insightful exploration of the use of the word “bitch” in popular culture, an examination of how men and men’s expectations affect the women they pursue, and a recurring segment about struggling to find housing as a young single parent of colour. These stories are clearly steeped in personal experience, and are richer for it.
There are some weak spots. At itimes, the whole exercise began to feel like a high school morality play, the sort of performance where we expect the company to turn to the audience and start rapping about how you don’t need drugs to be cool. But the cast is so energetic, charming and happy be here that these moments pass quickly, and the rest of the show is strong enough to sweep us back up again.
The diversity in the cast is an asset. Each actor gets several scenes or vignettes which uses their talents favourably. More extensive use of costuming would have been helpful, but it’s not especially difficult to follow the changes and pauses.
Lighting designer CJ Astronomo also deserves credit for excellent work: the design creates several distinct and identifiable spaces, and helps enormously to communicate difficult surroundings. (A sweltering, broken-down subway train; a busy rush-hour platform; the site of an accident.)
Above all else, though, the cast and their mentors deserve the applause they receive for excellent work. There are a lot of promising young actors in this company, and their stories deserve to be heard. The show is charming and successful, and while it is likeliest to interest young people, there’s enough to this piece to entertain almost anyone.
Runtime: ~50 minutes.
- Derailed plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue. (Northeast of Queen and Bathurst.)
- Performance dates include: Sat. the 11th at 7:00 PM; Sun. the 12th at 2:00 PM; Thurs. the 16th at 4:30 PM; Fri. the 17th at 7:00 PM; Sat. the 18th at 11:30 AM; Sun. the 19th at 7:00 Pm.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://ticketwise.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.