Outside the March’s Terminus, an unconventional Irish play on stage at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre
Back in September when Toronto’s foremost theatre purveyor, Mirvish, announced the creation of Off-Mirvish, their second-stage series, they promised it would feature “bold, original, exciting new theatre”. The show they chose to kick off this inaugural season, Outside the March’s Terminus, fits that description to a tee.
If you’re a regular Mirvish subscriber accustomed to their usual offerings of imported Broadway and West End musicals be prepared for something surprising and different. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore!
Terminus by Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe is an unconventional performance piece. Written in rhyme and performed by three actors as a series of intersecting monologues, Terminus takes place over the course of one extraordinary night in Dublin.
It’s not really a play in the traditional sense; the actors don’t interact with each other and situations are vividly described rather than acted out on stage, it’s akin to a dramatic reading of a modern-day epic Greek poem.
Toronto’s Outside the March has seen successes with its recent productions of Mr. Marmalade and The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Their production of Terminus was originally presented three months ago at the SummerWorks Festival where it won the 2012 Prize for Best Production.
The company is known for its inventive staging, producing site-specific works or performances that while not necessarily site-specific are nonetheless staged in interesting locales. That holds true in this case, while the performance takes place at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the audience is not seated in the auditorium but on the stage.
Nick Blais’ inventive set design features slats of fabric strung across short upright truss structures. The slats taper and at various times in the show they’re creatively lit to suggest a vanishing point perspective, venetian blinds or a massive pair of demon wings all with the Alex’s ornate Edwardian auditorium serving as a backdrop.
The reverse audience perspective is a clever way to set the off-kilter tone for the performance. The onstage seating also limits the audience to a maximum of 200 people per performance and creates an intimate experience for all; from up close we’re able to take in every nuance of the astonishing performances.
Because the show is a bit unconventional, it took a while for me to warm to the piece. For the first little while I had to adjust to the unique style and convention but after the first few minutes I bought in and was completely entranced for the rest of the ride. Alternately funny, dark, perverse and at times even a little grotesque, the show is thoroughly engaging.
While Terminus is written as a series of monologues it’s truly an ensemble piece. Maev Beaty, Ava Jane Markus, and Adam Wilson deliver riveting performances. I initially feared that the rhyming text performed in Irish accent would inevitably come off sounding like limerick but the cast delivers the rhyming script so expertly and so cleverly that it sounds completely natural.
Director Mitchell Cushman paces the show well and builds the tension throughout; by the end I was left breathless and exhilarated by the performance.
My show-going partner, site founder Megan Mooney, came to the show without having read anything about it previously. She also thoroughly enjoyed it. In conversation afterward Megan said she thought it was a bold choice for Mirvish to open their Off-Mirvish season.
I’m inclined to agree, it’s a bold choice that I hope pays off. I’m thrilled that the Off-Mirvish season will allow local companies like Outside the March who are doing innovative, exciting, new work to access to a broader audience. I hope to see more shows like Terminus presented in future seasons.
If Terminus sounds like it might be a bit outside your comfort zone, I encourage you to take a chance and see it anyway. If you go in with an open mind you might expand your horizons and discover something truly wonderful and exciting.
- Terminus is playing from November 21 – December 9, 2012 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West, Toronto.
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
- Tickets are $39 and $69. Day-of rush seats $29. Groups of 12 or more receive a 20% discount.
- Tickets are available in person at any Mirvish theatre box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at Mirvish.com.
– Photo of Maev Beaty by Josie Di Luzio