Look, I’ll level with you. Situational Anarchy, playing at Toronto’s Drake Hotel Underground as part of the SummerWorks Performance Festival, was the last assignment I picked up for our coverage this year. It didn’t sound like something that would appeal to me judging by the blurb in the festival program; something about playwright/performer Graham Isador’s on again/off again relationship with rockstar Laura Jane Grace, the transgender front woman of the punk band Against Me.
It’s not a surprising subject considering Isador covers music and interviews bands for VICE. I’ve just never been a part of that world. Punk rock was definitely not my scene, so I was pleasantly surprised that I connected so deeply with Situational Anarchy.
Isador describes how he found Against Me as a pre-teen misfit, how their music influenced his teen years, the relationships he built in their fan community and his sense of betrayal when they signed to a major label. However, the relationship between the playwright and Laura Jane Grace (whom he had never met until recently) is really a framing device for a confessional, deeply personal monologue about the disillusionment of growing up, which is something we can all relate to.
The script is made up entirely of real-life episodes in Isador’s life and he proves himself to be a master storyteller. His warm, understated delivery style disarms and invites us in. He is witty and endearingly self-deprecating. But perhaps more than anything, he is willing to open up and to be vulnerable with an earnestness that just feels so genuine.
He held me in rapt attention throughout the entire hour. I winced sympathetically when he described being bullied in gym class and held my breath as he detailed an episode of self-harm.
I was hanging off his words so intently that when he did indulge in a bit of stage business in the form of a staged argument with with his stage manager — a throwaway gag involving a certain K-Ci and Jojo song — I actually found it a bit jarring to be taken out of the moment and reminded of the artifice of the scenario. “Oh, right,” I thought, “I am actually watching a play.”
Ultimately, Situational Anarchy left me surprisingly moved. While the details are specific to Isador’s own experience, I think anybody who has ever felt like an outsider can relate. I’m really glad I took a chance on it and I hope you will too.
Situational Anarchy is playing at The Drake Underground (1150 Queen Street West)
- Saturday August 6th, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
- Friday August 12th, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
- Saturday August 13th, 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Youth Series tickets are $10, Live Art Series ticket prices vary. Tickets are available online at summerworks.ca, by phone at 416-320-5779 and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 2-14 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
- Photo provided by SummerWorks