Broken (Ramshackle Theatre) 2013 SummerWorks Review

BrokenBroken, performed at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace at SummerWorks, is a solo show about memory, family, family stories and how the details of our lives are captured and transmitted for posterity.

The performer, Brian Fidler, introduces himself as Will, not his real name, and invites the audience to adopt aliases for the show. Parts of the show, he tells us, are true. Parts are not. Will asks the audience a series of questions about our memory and informs us that we may very well be at one of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Will shows us a box he finds in his parents’ basement full of his grandfather’s possessions. He proceeds to tell us about his relationship with his grandfather and how as a child, he revelled in the stories his grandfather told based on the slides he projected for the boy.

Will describes his grandfather’s declining health from a child’s perspective. It is heartbreaking and the sadness, frustration and helplessness felt by both Will and his grandfather are palpable.

Will takes us into his grandfather’s basement apartment and introduces us to a series of props, some authentic (Fidler’s grandfather’s camera, tripod, slides) and some he asks us to imagine are real (a ladder that subs as wooden stairs, a SummerWorks office chair that stands in for the grandfather’s furniture).

The lines between reality and imagination are blurred, just as they might become for a person living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Fidler’s narrator uses slides, anecdotes and characterizations to convey story. He encourages audience participation (not in that paralyzing improv comedy way) and at one point asks a volunteer to read the role of his grandfather from a script he provides.

We are invited into the Will’s sensory history just as Will’s grandfather invites Will into his own through the slides.

A single bare bulb is used to clever effect to convey story non-verbally. The bulb represents a camera’s flashbulb, a jazz drumstick, a spelunking or mining headlamp, a firefly and a microphone at a boxing match; all Grandpa’s memories.

Broken is subtle, personal, painful at times and delightful at others. It is a show for anyone with relatable experience or who is curious about the human impact of the deleterious disease.


  • Broken plays through August 18th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
  • All tickets $15. Money-saving passes are available. For more information, and to order online, see the festival website.
  • Remaining performances: Sunday August 11, 8:30 pm; Tuesday August 13, 3:30 pm; Wednesday August 14, 6:00 pm; Thursday August 15, 8:30 pm; Friday August 16, 1:00 pm; Sunday August 18, 1:00 pm.

Photo of Brian Fidler by Ramshackle Theatre