Waking, playing at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, is the heartbreaking tale of a man who, after suffering from severe trauma, is left with a working memory of only 45 seconds, and without the capability of forming new memories. In a way it can be seen like an extreme form of dementia or Alzheimer’s, where each day, each passing moment is quite literally brand new. Waking explores the value of family and the loss of self identity.
Two manners of storytelling play into Waking. The first part of the show is a series of vignettes accented by a movie clapperboard. In these vignettes we see the past and the present emerge — Nigel in 1995 (played by Lucas James) as the effects of his memory loss and seizures start to take hold, and Nigel in 2015 (Rod McTaggert)– an old man whose paranoia and confusion is very real, who accuses his now adult son of being a stranger in his home.
In the second half, we see the reason for the clapperboard. Nigel’s life is being made into a documentary and we see the affect of Nigel’s condition on his wife Sonja in 2015 (Marta Legrady) , as well as how it affects his children.
Needless to say, this story is incredibly sad, touching and poetic but unfortunately try as I might I couldn’t find myself connected to it. Maybe it’s the venue. The Al Green Theatre suffers from a very wide gulf between the stage and the audience that leaves sound lost within the first few rows. I wasn’t sitting within those first few rows and much of the dialogue sounded muffled.
Maybe it was all the clunky and rather clumsy, rapid transitions that took up much of the first half. I’m willing to sum that up to opening night mishaps, and hopefully it can be ironed out throughout the run.
Unfortunately James and Courtney Keir, who played Sonja in 1995, didn’t gel with me either. I found the delivery of their lines fell too fast and their accents felt forced.
But on the other hand entirely, the older versions of Nigel and Sonja — McTaggert and Legrady — were remarkable, in particular McTaggart near the end when he realizes how long he’s been living with this illness he doesn’t remember. Legrady’s loving gaze reveals a pool of infinite patience for her struggling husband. Their chemistry and love is palpable and it’s clear that Sonja is the only person that Nigel will never forget.
Waking is the kind of show that has incredible potential and with a bit of fine tuning, there’s much that this story can achieve.
- Waking plays at the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina 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. 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 Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Use the elevator at the Spadina entrance.
- Saturday July 2nd, 01:45 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 10:15 pm
- Monday July 4th, 05:00 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 07:00 pm
- Friday July 8th, 04:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 09:45 pm
Image provided by the company.