To Do, To Don’t (Jenn Goodwin) and Icône Pop (Mayday) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Mélanie Demers by Brianna Lombardo

Those looking for an easy show need not attend. Steeped in abstraction and absurdity, the double-bill power combo that is Icône Pop by Mayday and To Do, To Don’t by Jenn Goodwin  in SummerWorks 2017 never let me get comfortable with a convention. These generous performers do not care if you understand.

To Do, To Don’t is set uniquely in the lobby of the theatre. Seating includes a few sparse chairs, but most of us sit on the floor around the whole perimeter of the room. I’m already curious.
The floor is littered with note-scribbled papers. They’re all but ignored, only acknowledged in the chance encounter of stepping or rolling onto them once it begins.
From the corner of the room emerges a navy blue mass, a shock of blonde waves flopping from the top, slowly sliding along the floor, completely shielded in the dark warmth of a blanket.
It progresses into larger movement, not quite dance but definitely dance trained, unpredictable, but not erratic. Obsessive is a word that comes to mind. Obsessive, and frustrated.
Solo artist Jenn Goodwin’s explorations feel like secrets we’re only overhearing sacred snippets of. When she faces away from me, I wonder what secrets her hair tells that part of the room.
Only when she starts to use her fingers to point and silently plead for understanding does it feel that I’m invited to offer support, rather than merely observe and discern.
Over her performance is recorded sound, either speech or music. One, a relatable list of things “I really should” do by Kelly Mark. The other, a delicious blend of atmospheric and rhythmic melodies by Peregrine Falls.
Despite sitting on a floor with a wet umbrella, I barely noticed discomfort. I was absolutely mesmerized.
Goodwin’s frenetic energy is impressive. From a practical place, she uses dynamic techniques for transitioning from standing to floor and back. I also wonder how she doesn’t get a headache whipping her neck like that, but then again, maybe she does.
On top of it all, her work appears effortlessly endless, until silent moments when we hear heavy breathing, the telling evidence of work hard done.
Work worth checking out, if you ask me. I’ve never been so entranced by a blanket and hair.


Icône Pop

Icône Pop takes To Do, To Don’t‘s secret compulsions and raises you one very public enigma, in the form of bold creator-performer, Mélanie Demers. Alongside her is composer/singer Mykalle Bielinski.

Alongside them, is us. Quite literally, as the seating in this theatre is mobile, and currently arranged in parallel sections, the middle reserved for a luxurious fur blanket and special light. Demers performs in the fullness of the stage between us.

She also performs with the curtains open, the theatre awash in natural light. Staring forward at Demers was also to stare into the eyes of whoever was sitting across from me.

Combine that with the sexual, absurd, and confrontational nature of this show, and it leaves the audience exposed, a part of the show even, as Demers looks into our eyes and licks the air.

Before she enters the stage though, she is seated outside, through the centre doors, on a throne of concrete in a gown of tarp, facing the road as the cars swish by on rainy asphalt. “Look at that image,” remarks one intrigued audience member. Queen Street, indeed.

The haunting voice of Bielinski echoes through the space as we’re sitting down, and in moments through the show. Demers enters slowly, firmly lifting her blue skirt to expose her stocking-ed ankles and silver-pumped feet as she regards us.

We’re then taken on a visceral, intense journey, woven in metaphysical threads of movement, voice, and pointed costuming.

I can’t reveal more detail than that. It’s simply something you have to experience, and the element of surprise is, I think, an important ingredient of this, at times challenging, experience.

On its own, each piece demands attention. Together, these shows are two sides of the same coin, and an excellent pair to share. Bring your open mind, your generous heart, and your most controversial friends. Prepare for some juicy post-show banter.


To Do, To Don’t and Icône Pop play at The Theatre Centre – Franco Boni Theatre, 1115 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

  • Saturday August 5th 12:00pm – 1:15pm
  • Sunday August 6th 2:45pm – 4:00pm

SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.

Audience Advisory: To Do, To Don’t contains coarse language.

Image of Mélanie Demers by Brianna Lombardo