Review: You Should Have Stayed Home (Praxis Theatre)

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You Should Have Stayed Home is the dramatic true story of a detainee during Toronto’s G20 riots playing at the Aki Studio Theatre

You Should Have Stayed Home is Tommy Taylor’s true account of being kettled, arrested, held in inhumane conditions for nearly 24 hours, and then let go with no charges laid in Toronto’s 2010 G20 debacle. Thousands of others received the same or similar treatment, which is hard for us Canadians to reconcile with our view of our society and our laws. This makes it a very important story to tell.

Taylor is a likeable guy, which I think is a huge part of why this show works. It’s storytelling, rather than a play: hardly anything is acted out on stage, mostly Taylor just tells the audience what happened to him. And what happened isn’t always easy to parse. If it were fiction, the plot would make more sense. But this is a true story that takes place in the midst of the chaos of the G20, and by chaos I’m not talking about broken windows or burning cars. I’m talking about the incomprehensible decision-making that happened at the upper echelons of police and security that day.

When Taylor tells you about the detainees degradation at the hands of the guards in the makeshift prison set up in an old movie studio, that makes perfect sense. Bullies will bully, and even people who aren’t originally bullies can suffer the Lucifer effect. The bigger question is: why was the decision made to arrest people en masse, people who were peaceful, people who weren’t even protesting much less vandalizing, hours after (and a kilometer away from) the actual property damage?

My companion for this event was a friend who had been caught in the Sunday kettling at Queen and Spadina. This was the day after the Black bloc” had broken windows and burned cars. He was in a group of entirely non-violent people who the police kept out in the rain for hours. His reaction to the play was that it was a mirrored experience, up to the point of arrest.

As affable as Taylor is, the most powerful moments were when he was joined onstage by a group of fellow “detainees”. These are not necessarily actors, just volunteers. (If you would like to volunteer, email participate@praxistheatre.com.) The extra bodies work to create some striking tableaus, and they gave me chills when they all called out for water, and made me laugh when they created a modified version of volleyball to play to pass the time.

The detainees gives the audience and Taylor a break from our focus being on him alone, but I also think it speaks to the potential for so much more. This story works as it is because Taylor seems like a sweet guy, and because he is so sincere, and because we all remember the G20 in one way or another. But there is so much powerful material there that I could easily see this being dramatized. A part of me wanted to see the characters played out instead of just hearing about them. A small cast could manifest the individual police and guards we meet, Taylor’s friend and girlfriend, and his cell mates, such as the angry TTC driver and the First Nations man who isn’t surprised at being mistreated. That could be very theatrical indeed.

As it is, the show depends on Taylor being present and to us remembering what the G20 was. A dramatized version could give it a life beyond those two things. And I think it would be useful for it to have as broad a reach as possible, given the questions it raises about accountability in our “free” society.

Details

  • You Should Have Stayed Home plays at the Aki Studio Theatre, 585 Dundas E until October 26th (followed by runs in Montreal and Ottawa)
  • Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm with 2 pm matinees on Saturdays and on Sunday October 20th
  • Tickets are $17.47 to $20.12
  • Purchase tickets online or by calling 416-531-1402.

Photo of Tommy Taylor by Will O’Hare