I am always excited stepping into the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman Avenue), as the venue has consistently housed fresh and exciting theatre experiences for me. Tonight I went there to see Evacuate presented by Rhymes with Orange Productions and I left feeling satisfied by a very sensitive piece of theatre.
It is a small space, and it can be hard to maneuver, but the venue provides an intimate theatre going experience. The simple and unassuming living room set brings us right into these characters’ environment as soon as we sit down.
A musical overture from another era paired with a cleverly placed, half folded National Post issue indicates to us we have entered a living room of a contemporary time, with perhaps residuals from an older one. What unfolds is a touching exchange between two people. Iris (played by Anne Shepherd) and John (played by Tom Bolton) have been living as husband and wife for over 50 years in a home threatened by an encroaching forest fire.
Almost immediately, Shepherd establishes herself as a performer with great presence. As the character of John emerges, a wonderful banter develops between the two characters that is both hilarious and very natural, these two performers prove to be very well matched.
Playwright Katie Alguire seems to have a real feel for how people speak to each other, and I think has imagined quite successfully how relations between those married for decades is great fodder for moments of tension, humour, and human tenderness. She has given these talented performers great dialogue to work with, and it’s quite a treat to watch the result.
The tension between the two characters makes for a captivating drama, even without the encroaching fire. Iris’ upbeat and almost neurotic energy and remarkable memory contest John’s desire to keep things rather silent and simple. It’s almost a classic combination that left me wondering, which character will I grow to be?
What might seem like a quaint set and minor drama between two characters reveals itself to be a stage to play out some strong visceral issues: accepting the passage of time in both your lives and your body, fears of giving up independence, and how a moment of urgency can force one to realize what has real significance in their lives. What creates the drama in Evacuate is when two people who have shared a life, realize they might each have differing moments of significance, and when you’re packing one suitcase to take with you, how do you negotiate meaning and significance between each other?
My one piece of criticism would be that the writing and performances set up such a rich interplay between characters, I found the ending to be a little abrupt. I felt like there was more room, time, and definitely the talent to explore further the revelations between John and Iris as they face a life changing event. That being said, Evacuate is a very sensitive play written by Alguire and performed with great nuance by both Shepherd and Bolton, and of course, performed with a great sense of urgency was the character of the fireman by Scott Calvaheiro.
▪ Wednesday July 3, 2013, 8:45 p.m Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:45 p.m Monday July 8, 2013, 2:45 p.m Tuesday July 9, 2013, 10:30 p.m Wednesday July 10, 2013, 7:30 p.m Friday July 12, 2013, 12:00 p.m Saturday July 13, 2013, 8:45 p.m
▪ All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only) and go on sale one hour before showtime. 50% of tickets are available in advance and are $11 ($9+$2 service charge), these can be purchased online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416 966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
▪ Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.
Please note that there is absolutely no latecomer seating during the Toronto Fringe Festival
Photo credit: Anne Shepherd and Tom Bolton as Iris and John. Photographer: Alex Fields . Pictured: Anne Shepherd (left) and Tom Bolton (right).