The Session is an emotional rollercoaster of street life, sex work and salvation at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre
The Session tells the story of a young woman named Leslie-Haydn Burke who undergoes a psychiatric assessment and discloses the story of her life. She discusses her upbringing, leaving home at an early age, living on the streets and getting by on sex work, meeting and falling in love with a man who keeps her off the street, and the crime she commits that leads to her incarceration.
Joella Crichton is full of potential as Leslie-Haydn Burke. It is an incredibly difficult feat to perform alone with the intensity required for this challenging piece of theatre. Crichton’s performance in The Session is an emotional rollercoaster albeit one with a very predictable track. We are taken through states of laughter that devolve into maniacal laughter, then tears, then anger, then quieter exposition. Repeat.
Because Red Sandcastle Theatre is a small space, Adam and I felt like Crichton was yelling at us for a majority of the 100 minute show, no intermission.
Owing to uninformed physical choices, imprecise blocking and unjustified exits, I felt that Crichton was left to her own devices in terms of direction. I wasn’t ever certain I knew where she was in time and space or to whom she was speaking. There was far too much emotional slack when what I needed was tension and connectedness.
The writing in The Session is elegant and almost too eloquent to be a play. The script could use some minor adjustments, mostly involving the tightening of plot points and omitting exposition. My ultimate critique is that the script and the details therein are too ‘on-the-nose’. The writing relies too heavily on the literal and gives its audience no space to interpret feeling. The production as a whole is also too married to the idea of what it should be and to the Police song, Roxanne, to which it owes its inception.
This particular theatre company, Things Falling Apart, is “committed to telling original stories from the African-Canadian-Caribbean Diaspora”. There were elements of this within The Session; the character grows up in a strict Caribbean household from which she escapes. She also falls in love with an older man who she feels is more interested in indulging his “Island Girl” fantasy than he is of developing a relationship with her. I would love for the script to explore these themes in greater detail.
I have faith that with some time and finesse, Things Falling Apart will produce some outstanding and provocative theatre.
- The Session is playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East)
- Shows are November 13-16 at 8pm and November 17 at 2pm.
- Tickets are $15, cash only.
- Reservations can be made by calling 416-845-9411.
Photo of Joella Crichton by Malinda Francis