Review: Rare (Young Centre for the Performing Arts)

Illuminating theatre experience, Rare, hits the stage at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts

The response he gave was dismissive.

I had told a friend that I was going to a show in which the performers all have Down Syndrome.

“It’ll mostly be family in the audience then,” he said.

My friend’s expectation – perhaps shared by other people, too – was that the work would be akin to an elementary school pageant. In other words: cute but unsubstantial.

For my part, I was excited.

Over the last few years I’ve worked regularly with actors who have Down Syndrome. And often what I see is a preternatural talent for theatricality.

Also, I was curious about the content.

In Rare – playing until the end of next week – the performers openly acknowledge that they were born with Down Syndrome, and tell us about their lives.

Suitably enough, the stage is bare save for a line of chairs for the cast to sit in.

The show is a mixture of solo performances and ensemble events, when the actors one-by-one, in a line, offer confessions on a theme: a time when they felt afraid; what they dream of most; what they might say to a person who discovers their child will have Down Syndrome.

The answers reveal such relatable individuals, and yet, such unusual compassion and gratitude for life.

One of the more strictly informative themes was medical conditions immediately after birth to about age five. And though I’m not a parent, the health disclosures are, I think, enough to seriously frighten any mom or dad.

Yes – as children – the performers acknowledge they were unusually afflicted. But, as is true in the whole show, they reflect on life with, what I think is, remarkable candor and humor.

About equal time, if not more, is given to solo numbers.

There’s a monologue, for example, by one performer on her brother’s murder. The massive absence this has left in her life brought a lump to my throat.

Family, by the way, is an extremely important theme of Rare. I’ve never heard the phrase ‘My dad is my hero’ so often or talk of such profound connections to grandparents.

The various themes and performances of the show are held together by musical interludes and gentle ballads performed on the guitar.

Rare is well worth seeing if you have a chance. It sparked a long conversation with the friend I ended-up going with.


Rare is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane) until February 7th
– Showtime is 8:00. Doors open about half-an-hour before.
– Tickets are $15 to $30
– For more information, please call 416-866-866 or visit


One thought on “Review: Rare (Young Centre for the Performing Arts)”

  1. I saw it at Fringe and loved it. Judith Thompson has done a stellar job curating the individual stories. The cast is wonderful. There are some really funny moments, as well as really touching ones.

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