Self-Exile (Nisha Coleman) 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival

Photo of Nisha Coleman

You know that strange girl you went to high-school with? The one who never talked and dressed in oversized men’s clothing? Did you ever wonder what her story was? Self-Exile, Nisha Coleman’s solo show at the Toronto Fringe Festival gives you a window into her world.

As the lights come up we hear a heartbeat thumping and the cry of a baby being born. For the next hour, Coleman tells stories about key moments in her life, from her childhood in small town Ontario with hippie parents to her time as a street musician in Paris. She shares intimate details of each stage, transitioning from child, to teenager, to adult with a simple change of clothes.

When she was five years old, Coleman’s troubled father tells her, “Don’t be yourself.” Self-Exile is an exploration of her quest to figure out who to be instead.  Coleman discusses how her lack of a sense of self causes her to be a shape-shifter, molding her behaviour to the expectations of those around her.

Coleman’s stories are both troubling and funny. She describes painful moments of both physical abuse and social isolation. But not all her anecdotes are sad, and she manages to finds the humour in difficult situations. There are moments of joy as she plays the violin and somehow manages to connect other people. Even though her experiences may have been extreme, I found them to be relatable. We all had awkward moments as adolescents.

Self-Exile is a quiet, intimate performance in a small space (The Solo Room at Tarragon Theatre), and Coleman’s delivery fits this mood.  She is sincere and not overly dramatic. Her emotions seem real.

But although I found Coleman to be a compelling performer, Self-Exile didn’t quite work for me as a whole.  The ending felt abrupt, like there was no resolution.  I wasn’t sure the show was over until the audience started to applaud. All in all, though I was glad I saw it, Self-Exile left me unsatisfied.


  • Self-Exile plays at the Tarragon Theatre Solo Room. (30 Bridgman Ave)
  • Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and 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. 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.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through an alternate route. Please arrive early and speak with the House Manager.


  • Friday July 1st, 04:45 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 05:00 pm
  • Monday July 4th, 04:00 pm
  • Tuesday July 5th, 08:30 pm
  • Thursday July 7th, 09:45 pm
  • Friday July 8th, 07:00 pm
  • Saturday July 9th, 02:45 pm
  • Sunday July 10th, 04:00 pm

Photo of Nisha Coleman provided by the company