Review: Me Talking to Myself in the Future (Buddies in Bad Times)

Marie Brassard

Me Talking to Myself in the Future is one woman’s retrospections at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

At one point midway through Me Talking to Myself in the Future, currently playing at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the show’s creator and star Marie Brassard interrupts herself in the midst of a reverie and says, “I am telling a story which makes no sense.”

When she delivered the line on opening night, the audience laughed with palpable relief, as though she’d named the elephant in the room. Afterwards, my friend and I agreed that her candor in that moment helped us connect to the performance — in truth, the show is often quite hard to follow (at least by the standard of stories that makes sense).

But things aren’t what they seem in this hallucinatory play about evolution and transformation, including that stodgy old elephant, which turned out to be a red herring. Brassard wasn’t conceding to literal-mindedness, but gently reminding us to shift our expectations.

In fact, Brassard is a wonderful storyteller, and doesn’t need a bouncy plot to prove it. The accomplished Quebec actor, author, and director pulls us into her beguiling narrative by some mysterious mixture of quiet revelation and raw exposure, and holds us there with her expressive hands and honest delivery.

Broadly speaking, Brassard engages with that moment in personal evolution or emotional maturation when you finally start empathizing with your inner child. The childhood she tells of in this play sounds hard: she comes from a small town “where bikers and rockers were making the rules,” and seemed to cope by means of a magnificently morbid imagination.

The title is a slight misnomer; Brassard spends most of the performance addressing the audience directly. Her tone is earnest and informative, though the content is phantasmagoric, and combined with the projections, it all starts to feel a bit like a Ted Talk for shamans. Her conversation flows generously, but nowhere you could easily map.

Brassard’s voice changes throughout, to take on different characters, but she herself remains planted downstage centre (though not always upright). Her two onstage collaborators, Jonathan Parant and Alexandre St-Onge, buttress her on the right and the left, conjuring music and sound effects from laptops, keyboards, a guitar, and St-Onge’s throat.

On top of these acoustic emanations, Brassard gathers an array of poetic visions, some that seem like memories, some dreams, and some outright fancies. She empties her impressions onto the stage, like the contents of a long-forgotten satchel that’s full of surprising treasures, and then examines them one by one.

This technique produces a layered effect that’s mirrored in the digital processes presumably used to create the show’s many dynamic audio/visual textures. Brassard’s narrative method reminded me of the way editing software allows an artist to separate a work into many layers, turning them off and on at different times to show different effects, and how each layer has its own set of filters, properties, masks, and styles.

One of the primary filters in Me Talking to Myself in the Future is time — we experience Brassard as a child and as an old woman drifting contemplatively to her own death. Another is blood, her own, in which she discovers herself reflected, and which tangibly covers her hands by the end of the play.

The most vivid filter is pain, however — not agony, but an ache. From the outset, we find a dislocated silhouette projected on the wall. Brassard’s character has been separated from her shadow, and her dark side wanders alone, out of sync. Only some great trauma could produce such a rift.

I didn’t understand every line, but one thing she seems to tell herself as a child: “It is normal to have desires.” The vision Brassard offers is sometimes bleak — “a circular landscape and an infinite plain” — because her desire was once punished and pushed away. But here she is, calling it back.

Details:

  • Me Talking to Myself in the Future is playing March 26–April 6 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street).
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on Sunday at 2:30pm.
  • Tickets range from $20–$37 and PWYC on Sunday.
  • Any unsold tickets on Tuesday through Thursday will be available at the box office for $20 from 12–6pm. Tickets can be purchased online here.

Photo of Marie Brassard courtesy of the company.

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