YellowZoned is a one woman show put on by You, Me and Us at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace for the Toronto Fringe Festival. It’s an emotional and realistic look at how anxiety manifests itself as a mental illness. It’s performed, written and directed by Alia Etienne.
What worked best for this production was how true it rang. At first you’re not quite sure what it has to do with mental illness, as Etienne begins on a passionate tangent on the disservice of designing ugly shoes. As she moves around the stage, her mannerisms start to feel familiar. The way she jumps from one story to another, her emphatic gestures, the words she uses feels as though she is speaking to me earnestly, privately.
As the production moves forward, we begin to see the insidious nature of mental illness make itself known. You see it in the way her voice quickens as she tells a story, becomes more impassioned and angered. It’s in the way she moves. Even though it seems as though she is just telling a series of vaguely connected stories, it gives us a snapshot inside the mind of someone struggling with their mental health.
At the end of the show, Etienne stepped back onto the stage and gave a “Talkback” where she offered to answer questions about the show. While opening night was not a particularly busy night, questions and comments still came from the audience. I even found myself raising my hand and asking if she found it difficult to write about mental illness and her culture and heritage.
As she spoke about the influences, the experiences and the messages in the show, some sat very heavy on my mind. She spoke of the anxiety of being a first generation Canadian in her family, holding the weight of an immigrant’s future with every choice she makes. The fear of failing, not only herself, but the family that made the trek to Canada in hopes of a better future is a familiar feeling and one that would be familiar to so many Torontonians.
As the talkback came to an end, her mother (whom she discusses in the show) joined her on stage. The importance of the show struck home as her mother reminded those of us struggling with mental health to stay strong, with Etienne adding, “and see a doctor.”
- YellowZoned plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is NOT wheelchair-accessible.
- Wednesday June 29th, 08:15 pm
- Friday July 1st, 01:15 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 05:00 pm
- Monday July 4th, 09:15 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 06:45 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 04:45 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 06:15 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 02:45 pm
Photo provided by company.