Interactive site-specific theatre at the Bata Shoe Museum – Is this the face of Bartholomew S?
It isn’t really accurate to say that I saw the show. I was part of it, along with seven others. Eight if you count the person who led us through the story.
Although The Last Seven Steps of Bartholomew S. is billed as a play it isn’t a play in the traditional sense with the audience sitting and watching the actors. The audience is an integral part of the play. And it’s a very small audience. It’s audience participation to the nth degree, almost participating in a mini adventure, and it was lovely.
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m the person who ducks down in her seat and hides her head when someone on stage says “I need a volunteer from the audience”. The fact that I enjoyed The Last Seven Steps of Bartholomew S. is a testament to the skill of the playwright Daniele Bartolini and the other players.
This is a site-specific piece commissioned by the Bata Shoe Museum to be performed in four galleries. It’s a little eerie to be in the darkened museum. At times I felt as if we should be whispering.
I’ve been going back and forth in my head, trying to decide how much to say about the piece and have decided to not say much. The piece starts when you pick up your tickets and are handed a sealed envelope and instructed to not open it until asked.
Here’s what I knew going in: “Enter the world of Bartholomew S – a mysterious voyager that brings change to the places he visits and individuals he encounters. In this unique, interactive theatrical experience, small groups of participants will spend the evening with a character whose life has been impacted by the mysterious Bartholomew S. Each group will be drawn into the retelling of an encounter that takes place in, and had been inspired by, one of the galleries of the Bata Shoe Museum. These stories are each told by diverse individuals and take place in different environments, countries and epochs. At the end of the evening participants are then left to answer a question: is Bartholomew S. a real person, or merely a legend?”
‘Interactive theatre’ has a scary ring to it for me but I wasn’t at all uncomfortable. I was in a small group, just nine people, and everyone was participating. There was absolutely nothing to be nervous about. I really enjoyed it. For anyone else who gets anxious about these things, we weren’t asked to do or say anything odd or weird, nothing to make anyone uncomfortable.
At the beginning of the evening we were divided into two groups of eight people. Each group ‘saw’ two pieces.
The group I was in was led into a darkened gallery. There was a circle of chairs in a pool of light. This was the beginning of the first story.
There was an actor waiting for us and he invited us to sit and assigned us simple roles. He asked us our names and what we did and he told us a bit about himself and his connection to Bartholomew S.
We searched for clues, found the first one that led us to a second clue that led us back to our starting point.
We were met by another actor and led to another dimly lit gallery for the second piece.
The cast have an impressive ability to put you at ease right away, important in this kind of play.
The shoes in the gallery aren’t really part of the play; they’re part of the set. It was quite tantalizing to catch glimpses of them as we moved around with a flashlight from the first gallery to the second. People who hadn’t visited the Bata Shoe Museum before said that they wanted to come back and see the shoes.
After the performance there was a wine and cheese reception with the charming cast. I had thought that I would talk to the other audience members and get their reactions but instead found myself in interesting conversations with them and with the cast. I was one of the last people to leave. Me, who never stays for the reception when I go to anything on my own.
I highly recommend that you see The Last Seven Steps of Bartholomew S. Here’s the bad news. Tickets are very limited; it is indeed an intimate performance. And, there are only three more performances. Buy your tickets now for a spectacular Friday evening.
- The Last Seven Steps of Bartholomew S. is playing at the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor St W) until February 28th
- Performances are Friday evening only at 7 pm.
- Tickets are $50.00 ($40.00 for BSM Members) and include a wine and cheese reception with the cast
- Tickets can be purchased online or by phone at 416-979-7799 x 445.
Photo of Rory DeBrower © 2014 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada