Using movement, dance, spoken word, sound, projections, and artistic lighting, the team from Pencil Kit Productions have brought the tale of Persephone to life at the Helen Gardiner Phelan theatre during this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival. The result of their efforts is a performance that is both sumptuous and stunning.
Sydney Herauf plays Persephone, the young and beautiful daughter of Demeter (Jacklyn Francis), the Goddess of the Harvest and Agriculture. As Persephone grows into a young woman, she captures the eye of Hades (Christopher Sawchyn), God of the Underworld, who kidnaps her to be his bride. In her grief, Demeter starves the earth of fertility and growth, plunging the planet into winter.
This performance is a wonderful story of puberty and sexual awakening, where we see Persephone start off young and innocent and then progressively growing into her own womanhood, making her own decisions. Throughout the narrative, two hovering entities are constantly present: the love and desperation of a mother searching for her child and the desire and lust from a man on the hunt for the object of his desire.
Francis and Sawchyn give fantastic performances. The maternal connection between mother and daughter and Francis’ anguish in her search is raw and beautiful. On the other side of that, Sawchyn’s slow seduction is methodical and insidious. He gets under Persephone’s skin and into her mind with his insistent questioning, making her re-evaluate all that she values.
Herauf is a delight to watch across the board. Her doe-eyed innocence in the beginning makes Hades’ desire for her seem that much more perverted, and as she grows, her strength is formidable.
I was also very impressed with the chorus with their seamless transition between people of the world above and the lost souls of the Underworld. Their use of dance and voice, paired with the accompanying lighting and sound choices, made for a haunting and ethereal experience.
I spent years studying the story of Persephone and knew that a story about her journey would be right up my alley. What I didn’t expect was that I would enjoy this performance as much I did, and I heartily suggest experiencing it yourselves during Fringe.
- Persephone plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. George St)
- 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. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Strobe Light, Fog or Haze Effects, Sexual Content, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Saturday July 2nd, 11:00 pm
- Monday July 4th, 06:15 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 07:45 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 12:15 pm
- Friday July 8th, 11:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 12:00 pm
Photo of Christopher Sawchyn and Keshia Palm by Jeff Parazo and designed by Rachel Bielak.