Heartwarming tale of dad’s coming-out from kid’s perspective takes the stage for WorldPride in Toronto
As I approached the George Ignatieff Theatre, even from thirty feet away, the pink streamers, balloons and WorldPride buzz spilling out of the theatre was hard to miss. I received my ticket- a tinkerbell sticker I am still proudly wearing on my hand – and enjoyed the decorated entrance.
This lobby experience could be seen as a sort of introduction to the play because Alison Wearing’s one-woman-show is all about acceptance, community, and gaiety – pun intended. It is essentially a live autobiography complete with humour, emotion, and the insight of hindsight.
The show opens with a bare stage. News clippings from the 1981 police bathhouse raids are projected on a screen, accompanied by an audio collage of radio and t.v. broadcasts on the same subject.
It is a gripping introduction, though a bit misleading, as the rest of the show sticks close to Wearing’s own life. Specifically, her relationship with her father as he came out of the closet.
One-woman shows are never easy, neither in terms of writing, nor acting. The fact that Alison has written a riveting, cohesive story, and performed it in an energized, engaged manner is a feat in and of itself.
The piece is accessible to those who may not be familiar with the experience of gay parenting because of the clear, fluid nature of the story. Wearing is also a novelist, and has written an autobiography by the same name. Though I haven’t read the book, the evocative descriptions and imagery sprinkled throughout the script suggest it would work well as a novel.
However, the writing and direction at times feels a bit too safe. This show and subject matter has so much potential for innovative uses of space and storytelling that step outside the bounds of convention.
The director, Stuart Cox, and Alison Wearing could afford to creep a little farther from the norm in terms of staging and writing, without losing the universal applicability this show possesses.
It’s interesting to note that the play isn’t about being gay, as the title might suggest, but rather about growing up with a father who is gay. This is a unique perspective that speaks to the confusion and distress felt by the daughter a of gay dad coming out of the closet. It was interesting to hear about an experience that is not discussed as often as the coming out-story itself.
Some of the exciting production elements in the show include the projections and sound designed created by Calvin B Grant. Slides are projected throughout the show to help punctuate certain images or moments. There is also an extensive sound track that plays for almost the entire duration of the play. The songs range from Chopin, to disco, to Pink Floyd, enhancing the atmosphere of each scene. With only one person on stage, the music supports the story and gives Wearing an acting partner she can react to.
At times, Wearing’s energy seems forced. I never forgot that I was watching an actor on stage, despite this being her own true story. Perhaps because this show is so close to her heart, I felt Wearing anticipated many of the moments and the show felt over-rehearsed at times. I wish she could find a way to share this story with us from a more natural place.
Despite this, I tip my hat to Wearing, who tells her story eloquently and passionately. She plays multiple characters, distinguishing between them clearly and believably. Throughout, she remains lively and engaging even in the calmer moments.
As I left the theatre I felt as though someone had just shared something very special with me. That something was emotional without being too heavy; engaging without being overwhelming; and profound without being sappy.
Wearing doesn’t just tell us a good story. It’s her story.
- Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is playing at the George Ignatieff Theatre (12 Devonshire pl)
- Performances run until June 28th
- Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8pm, with an additional 2pm show on Saturday
- Tickets are $28 and can be purchased at WWW. fairysdaughter.com or at the door
Photo of Alison Wearing by Mindy Gough