Five Fingers is a rewarding challenge for Toronto audiences.
I’m hesitant to say that Five Fingers is a powerful piece of theatre because I don’t feel those words do it justice. Five Fingers is an experience like none other I’ve ever had.
Five Fingers is a story of domestic violence told in the domestic sphere. It is performed at a site-specific location, a home in the Annex, and the company invites up to ten audience members in to watch the performance. The quarters are cramped adding to the feeling of being caged in the space with the dysfunctional couple.
The play begins as we follow Tuck into his home. Tuck carries a pack of diapers inside and he is not happy about it. Once inside the house, we discover why.
Through movement, monologue and scene we learn about Tuck and Anna’s relationship. They were once in love but an unplanned pregnancy and marriage transformed the relationship into one of co-existence.
The road to domestic abuse is laid out through moments of tension, anger and silence. The performance is raw. It is visceral. As an audience member you feel the impact and gravity of the five fingers.
Ambient jazz plays throughout the performance, which I thought was a little out of step with the characters but I couldn’t think of a suitable alternative. The script is elegant and poetic and the dark purple lighting contributes to the dreamlike state. Director Tom Arthur Davis is on hand as a technician to light and darken the space as necessary.
It’s hard to be in certain places in the house at certain times because of the intense energy of actors Chala Hunter and Nathan Barrett. Sometimes they look right at you and it’s uncomfortable but not the way you’d expect. It’s not the mark of poor acting chops; on the contrary, these National Theatre School graduates display a full range of very affective emotion.
At one point, after a tumultuous encounter with Tuck, Anna turned to me and confessed that she missed him terribly.
I got chills. In two seconds, she switched from steely to vulnerable. The transformation came with such frightening speed and it revealed in that brief and shared moment the complexity of an abusive relationship.
The wonderful thing about this performance and what has made it so difficult for me to summarize is how different the experience is depending on who is watching it. As an audience member, you get to choose who to follow through the house and whose perspective to listen to.
My buddy and I were two of the six audience members for one of last Friday’s shows. Anger and violence have touched both our lives in different ways so the play definitely resonated. A few months ago, I did research for the Missing Women Project and that experience, like this play, continues to haunt my waking life. Women are more likely to suffer violence, abuse and untimely death at the hands of their intimate partners. I am happy to see the issue raised in a multitude of media and the arts.
It is very clear from the script that playwright Robin Fulford has direct experience in this realm. There is nothing heavy-handed about any aspect of the production. There is no banner waving or pulpit thumping. The audience is free to draw its own conclusions from the incredibly dark yet beautiful, multi-layered and impressionistic style and delivery.
I can imagine this performance would be difficult to watch for people who have lived through domestic abuse and for frontline workers who see it everyday. That being said, I encourage everyone to go see Five Fingers this weekend to have their senses heightened and their consciousness raised.
- Five Fingers is playing at a site-specific location in the Annex
- Performances are Thursday June 20, 7:30pm, Friday June 21 and Saturday June 22, 7:30pm and 9:30pm (with possible extension)
- For tickets, information and directions, email fivefingersTO@gmail.com
Photo of Chala Hunter and Nathan Barrett by Joel Chico