The Water Thief (The Twelfth House) 2014 SummerWorks Review


The Water Thief is a site-specific show playing in the basement of Toronto’s St. John’s Polish National Catholic Cathedral as part of the SummerWorks Festival. The performance blends film, live music, dance and shadow puppetry to create a sort of visual and aural poem.

I really liked the attention to detail in establishing the show’s atmosphere of quiet reflection. Upon entering the cathedral audience members are admitted to the performance space one by one pausing to perform a cleanse and to light a candle along the way before proceeding to the auditorium to take their seats as echoes of French-Canadian folk songs play in the background.

The performance proper takes the form of a film projected onto a scrim at the front of the auditorium. We meet an old man as he gives his dead wife a burial at sea and then proceeds to perform daily rituals; lighting candles, drawing water and filling the basin of a large mechanical clock.

The original score is composed by Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink and performed live, like the accompaniment of a silent film. The score is atmospheric and has a dream-like quality that really accentuates the mood of the performance.

Performers behind the screen are periodically lit to create ghostly apparitions against the projection and periodically perform slow, methodical dances choreographed by Bee Pallomina.

The performance is slow-paced, languid, and at times downright meditative; indeed there are yoga mats laid out on the floor as one of the seating options for the audience.

The entire experience is beautifully atmospheric but it was perhaps a bit too subtle to register with me. Maybe it’s a reflection of my own cluttered mind and rushed state of being but I kept waiting for something to happen and for some grand revelation to the proceedings that never materialized so I left feeling a bit unsatisfied by the whole endeavour.


The Water Thief is a site specific show performed at St. John’s Polish National Catholic Cathedral (186 Cowan Avenue)

Show times:

Thursday August 7, 8:00pm
Friday August 8, 8:00pm
Saturday August 9, 3:00pm
Saturday August 9, 8:00pm
Sunday August 10, 3:00pm
Sunday August 10, 8:00pm
Tuesday August 12, 8:00pm
Wednesday August 13, 8:00pm
Thursday August 14, 6:30pm
Friday August 15, 3:00pm
Friday August 15, 6:30pm

All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, By phone by calling the Ticketwise Call Centre at 416-907-0468, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) August 5th-17th from 10AM – 7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows