The Space Between is impressive effort from Simeon Taole, now playing on the Toronto stage
The Space Between by talented emerging playwright and filmmaker Simeon Taole is a coming-of-age love story. Produced by Cinematoscape, this autobiographical tale is told against the backdrop of the collapse of apartheid South Africa. Mr. Taole is clear about the fact that this is a love story, not a piece about politics.
A 9-year-old, black South African boy moves to the United States for a year. His father has been offered a contract as a visiting professor of physics. While there, he meets and develops a deep connection with a girl in his class named Celeste. He returns to South Africa, but their connection endures through an exchange of letters as they enter adolescence and apartheid ends.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Taole after the show at a delightful wine and cheese reception hosted by Native Earth. The story is heavily based on his own experience and had been in his heart and mind for a long time before pen was put to paper (or finger to keyboard probably). According to the author, “the story just flowed” when he started to write. It certainly seemed that way to me.
Mr. Taole also performed and co-directed this one man show. Putting his talents as a filmmaker to clever effect, the story was accented by the well-timed usage of elegant and minimalistic projected images.
Throughout the 80 minute show, Mr. Taole demonstrated himself to be a superb thespian. He managed to maintain dramatic tension from the first line, drawing us to the edge of our seats during the suspenseful conclusion. Each of the characters that elucidate the story–Celeste, his parents and brother–were brought to life with vibrant clarity. Not only did Mr. Taole take on the accent of each charachter, he took on their mannerisms, tone, stance and facial expressions, truly stepping into the skin of each figure from his personal history.
Most notable was his characterization of the teacher from hell. We all remember her: picture that teacher, a relentless child-hating bully, in an environment where caning is allowed. Despite the seriousness of some of the subject matter, this piece is also quite funny. There were a number of laugh-out-loud moments, many of which had to do with the mean teacher. Mr. Taole has a deft grasp of dramatic timing, which he used to ensure that all the jokes landed.
Believe it or not, Mr. Taole also wrote and performed music in this show. There have been several occasions on which I have attended a performance where one person has undertaken a laundry list of things and I walked out wishing they had delegated something. That didn’t happen this time! While it would be impossible for Taole to be equally gifted at his numerous talents, he proved himself to be an exceptional playwright, director, actor, filmmaker, and composer in less than an hour and half. Kudos Simeon Taole, kudos.
That being said, of course it would be entirely impossible for one person to pull this off single-handedly. An invaluable second set of eyes was provided by co-director Natalie Ungara. Ms. Ungara is also a talented emerging artist and did lighting design for this production as well. Use of lighting was not the most noteworthy aspect of the show, but combined with the other elements, certainly accomplished the changes in scene and mood that it needed to .
This show provides a wonderful opportunity to see the impressive new talent this city has to offer. Show attendees can also enter a draw to win a trip to South Africa.
- The Space Between is playing until March 6, 2016 at Native Earth’s Aki Studio in the Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East). There will be two additional encore performances on March 17 & 18 at Toronto Centre for the Arts.
- Show times are Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 PM , with matinees at 2 PM on Sunday
- Ticket prices range from $20-25.
- Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-531-1402