No Place, produced by Pressgang Theatre, is performing at St. George the Martyr Church as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. For many who come across an autobiographical, one-person Fringe show about someone who grew up in a small town and had a difficult relationship with their mother, the description may as well read, “Run as fast as you can, in the opposite direction.” I get it. These types of one-handers are really hard to pull off well, and when they’re done poorly the result can be excruciating.
Luckily, actor/comedian/storyteller Jillian Welsh is an engaging performer who has no problem holding an audience’s attention for an hour, especially when she offers a candid, deeply personal show like No Place.
Welsh uses her Grandmother’s funeral as a framing device for a confessional monologue in which she revisits several episodes from her past: scenes detailing her fractured relationship with her mother, her move from Bruce County to New York City to study musical theatre and her job there as a nanny for a wealthy family. Along the way she goes to some really dark places, including re-living incidents of sexual violence.
Welsh performs the piece with an incredible sense of honesty and candor. When a performer has the courage to be so vulnerable and to offer their audience access to such deeply personal parts of themselves, you can’t help but connect with them and get drawn in to their story.
Of course, it also helps that Welsh is a highly-trained and experienced theatre artist. Even though she’s an improv-er, she avoids the urge to mug and dials the performance back to a level that feels genuine. It doesn’t feel like we’re watching a stage persona; Welsh makes us feel as if we’re seeing her true self.
Even though she delves into dark subjects, Welsh shows incredible restraint and maturity in her writing so it never feels gratuitous, overly sentimental or emotionally manipulative.
Welsh’s performance is also helped by director Shari Hollett’s well-paced and unfussy direction, which uses shifts in lighting to clearly denote changes in time and place. The subtle choice really adds clarity to the kaleidoscopic narrative structure of the piece.
No Place isn’t always an easy show to watch, but the journey that Jillian Welsh takes you on and the connection she’s able to make with her audience makes it worthwhile.
- No Place plays at St. George the Martyr. (197 John St.)
- 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.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Thursday July 6th, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 7th, 01:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 08:00 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 08:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 08:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 08:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 01:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 08:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 08:00 pm
Photo by Dahlia Katz