In Sundry Languages produced by Toronto Laboratory Theatre playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival is a creative collaboration that explores themes of belonging, exclusion, language, culture, and race. The six cast members speak six different first languages and come from six countries of origin. They are all now “Canadian”, but this identity does not come without complexities, tensions, and pain.
The show holds up a mirror to Toronto’s “multicultural mosaic” without ever becoming didactic. It calls upon us to question our subjective assumptions and internal biases about ourselves and those around us.
The production thoroughly entranced my companion and me. Comprised of a series of witty and engaging vignettes, much of the dialogue was in the diverse first languages of the performers. We were impressed by how clearly the content and powerful emotions read, despite the languages other than English not being subtitled.
The use of video projection was one of the most memorable aspects of the production. While the actors performed, their activities and dialogue were projected. This combination allowed us to view the performers and their stories from multiple vantage points, creating a visceral commentary on the impact of position and angle on our perceptions of reality.
Another highlight was the use of live piano music, performed by the show’s director Art Babayants, to accompany some of the vignettes, and a repeated bit that thoroughly mocked the oft-asked question “Where are you from?”. No one who has seen this show will ever ask you that question again.
The final and most memorable moment of the show was a dialogue with an audience member occurring in a mix of the performer’s first language, the audience member’s first language, and English. Not only was this moment charming, but it was also a potent symbol of communication’s ability to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers.
I highly recommend seeing this triumph of experimental theatre that beautifully reflects, celebrates, and challenges Toronto’s diversity.
- In Sundry Languages plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $12. 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 Scadding Court, 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 Warnings: Audience Participation, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- Thursday July 6th, 10:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 02:15 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 07:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 04:30 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 05:15 pm
- Friday July 14th, 12:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 06:45 pm
Photo of Amy Packwood, Clayton Gray, Joy Lee-Ryan, Sepideh
Shariati and Gloria Gao by Danielle Son