When I picked up my ticket for Alex Eddington’s Life List at the Toronto Fringe Festival from the tent outside of the Randolph Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that it had something to do with birdwatching. From there I was directed to continue walking past Markham Street and look for the rest of the group. A few metres later, I met up with Alex and the other participants who had already gathered.
We were definitely participants, not audience members. As soon as I arrived, I was paired up with another person. We were given a pair of binoculars to share and a clipboard with a map of the neighbourhood. Once everyone arrived, we all headed off in search of a rare White Robin which had supposedly been spotted in Seaton Village.
For the next 75 minutes, Alex led us on a quest to track down this mysterious creature – all the while having us note actual bird sightings on our maps. I don’t know much about birds or birdwatching. But some members of our group were experienced birders and were able to identify swifts, gulls and finches.
The walk was punctuated by musical interludes, usually with an avian theme. Along the way, we stopped at different parks. During these pauses, Alex told stories of his pet cockatiel, Spike, and of his mother who died of cancer in 2014, who introduced him to birding.
I loved exploring the city streets and laneways, looking at interesting street art and into the back gardens. And it was a lovely summer night for a walk, so the set up was appealing and enjoyable.
But for the first thirty minutes or so, I was confused. I was not sure what we were actually looking for. The changes of direction and instructions to look for specific birds seemed random and arbitrary. It was also sometimes hard to hear what Alex was saying, especially when we were moving.
It wasn’t until the last stop that I really got it. The search for the White Robin was really just a metaphor for the search for something or someone we have loved, lost and are now missing. And I was surprised by how moved I was by that realization. As Alex wove together images and elements from the various stories and encounters of the evening, I was not the only participant wiping tears from my eyes.
- Life List plays at the ticketing tent at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $10 at the door, $12 in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased 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: Audience Participation.
- Thursday June 30th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 1st, 07:30 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 03:00 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 07:30 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 03:00 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 07:30 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 8th, 07:30 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 03:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 07:30 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 03:00 pm
Photo of Alex Eddington by Andrew Gaboury