Landline (XO Secret) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo from Landline

What XO Secret is doing with Landline, playing during the final weekend of the SummerWorks Festival, is breaking apart every notion of what traditional and standard ‘theatre’ actually is. Here, one individual doubles as both audience member and actor as they traverse the city on their own, listening to audio cues on an MP3 player. While on their journey — which, without this element, can feel rather isolating — they are texting back and forth with an individual in Hamilton, taking part in the Hamilton Fringe, who are simultaneously embarking on the same journey but in their own way.

This is the kind of interactive performance that takes ‘audience participation’ to a whole new level where everything that you can take out of it is entirely dependent on what you put into it.

The experience begins at the Pia Bouman Studio B and expands from there. All participants are required to register in advance and arrive at studio 10 to 15 minutes in advance of their start time for a bit of orientation.

At arrival, I’m given a few things to accompany me on my journey: a circular map of the surrounding Parkdale area on one side and a map of the coinciding area in Hamilton on the other side where my ‘scene partner’ will be, a useful tag to wear informing pedestrians to not interact with me while in the show, and an ‘operator’ number to dial in case of any issue.  I’m provided with my scene partner’s phone number and an MP3. At the end of the countdown, away I go.

As the calming ASMR-like voice on the recording informs, where I travel is entirely based on where my heart desires — bearing in mind that the adventure also ends at the Pia Bouman so it’s necessary to return to home base in time.

The locations traveled, as instructed by the voice in the recording, are based on personal experience — find a location that is reminiscent of an old friend, a major life change. It’s not necessary to have actually been to these locations before, but that the reminder and the association is there. These thoughts and experiences are then communicated with my scene partner through text.

The entirety of this experience is solely individual and there is no right or wrong decision to make. As the experience runs for an hour and the walking portion lasts around 40 minutes, it is important to make quick decisions and the recording will give a countdown for them.

That being said, it is ok to not follow every instruction to the letter. At one point I realized that walking along Queen St meant that traffic drowned out the recording so I opted to wander a side street. The recording then instructed me to follow a random pedestrian at a comfortable, non-distracting distance. At that time, there wasn’t anyone around me, so I kept wandering on my own.

For me, the enjoyment out of experiencing Landline is in getting to explore an area of the city I’m not usually in and actually seeing the neighborhood for all its individual parts — the pedestrians, the wildlife, the architecture, and the colours. I’m able to explore myself, think about people I haven’t connected with in a while and moments that changed me. I also like being able to share those moments with a stranger. This is a unique and fun experience that I know I won’t soon forget.


Landline begins at the Pia Bouman Studio B (6 Noble St).

Remaining performances:

  • Sunday August 13th 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
  • Sunday August 13th 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm
  • Sunday August 13th 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
  • Sunday August 13th 1:45 pm – 2:45 pm
  • Sunday August 13th 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
  • Sunday August 13th 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm
  • Sunday August 13th 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm

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: A charged cellphone with texting capability is required for this performance as is walking outside for 40 to 50 minutes. Please wear comfortable shoes and dress weather accordingly. Regular texting rates apply. This performance is suitable for audiences 16+.

Photo by Mel Hattie