I was thrilled to see Tracey Erin Smith from Soulo Theatre at long last as her reputation as the Queen of one woman shows goes before her and I was definitely not disappointed. In her new Toronto Fringe Festival show, Memento Mori, she has expanded her repertoire to include talented musicians, masked and mysterious dancers, carefully crafted art pieces and compelling storytelling.
To begin, we are invited to join a fiesta of sorts outside in a courtyard and are waited upon by masked men while our heroine–also masked–watches us from above. We are serenaded by a small group and are handed cards with a question to answer. Led inside by our hosts, we find ourselves sitting in a richly decorated bistro, while a group plays and we breathe in the atmosphere of a Mexican café and ponder on the life size quilted figures upon the walls.
The stories begin and then pour out of Tracey Erin Smith like a waterfall, entrancing us with her delicacy and her artful way of expressing folk legend, truth and wisdom. This is a show that invites us to look death in the face and if there’s anyone I would care to do that with, then it is Tracey Erin Smith, who guides us through the Final year of her life with grace and honesty.
After the awful suicide of her father and her marriage in ruins, Tracey decides to live a year as thought it were her last, as her soul needs emergency first aid. She enrols a kindred spirit and together they start to live Tracey’s Bucket List with sometimes terrifying , macabre and hilarious results. She embraces life with gusto and tries skydiving, Survival training and sneaking into a post-mortem room to confront her own mortality. She even tries magic mushrooms and learns the secrets of the universe. She conjures up her dead grandmother in songs and drumming that mash up Native American and Israeli rhythms to great effect, and in that intriguing encounter she learns that death is not to be feared but a gentle melting at the edges as though we are “a sugar cube dissolving in a cup of tea.”
The elements that assist in this journey to the dark side are surprising and powerful. Beautiful live music to support the story and Tracey’s tango partners who come to sweep her away, perhaps with twin temptations of sex and death. I particularly enjoyed her mask work as she told us stories of how death is viewed in Indonesia and tales from the Japanese Suicide Forest.
This show is an exhilarating — and yet sometimes quietly touching — exploration of our sense of loss, our own fears and the coming to terms with the inevitable. It is a tender eulogy to those who have gone before us and how we can remember them. You will certainly leave with a smile on your face as the last dance celebrates life and the only way to live it, with Tracey and her dancers throwing it down to the disco beats of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough!
The audience and I could not get enough of Tracey Erin Smith and I will be thinking about her show for a very long while to come.
Memento Mori plays at the Rochelle Rubenstein Studio. (402 College St. near College and Bathurst)
July 02 at 08:30 PM
July 03 at 08:30 PM
July 04 at 08:30 PM
July 05 at 08:30 PM
July 06 at 08:30 PM
July 07 at 08:30 PM
July 09 at 08:30 PM
July 10 at 08:30 PM
July 11 at 08:30 PM
July 12 at 08:30 PM
July 13 at 08:30 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online , by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Tracey Erin Smith by Renata Durán