Experimental comedy and performance art show arrives on the Toronto stage
Women from the Future, playing at Factory Studio Theatre, is a quadruple-bill: one part stand up comedy, one part performance art show featuring experimental sounds and multimedia visuals. The show is produced by Roles 4 Women, a production company based in Newfoundland and Labrador looking to put bold new works onto the Canadian stage. I just want to start off this review by saying that I do not see a lot of experimental theatre, but for those readers who are not used to “this sort of thing,” I’ll be happy to give you my topical response.
As I walked into the theatre, I was expecting Women from the Future to be an experimental stand up comedy show about the female perspective. However, the show ended up being a mish-mash of performances that seemed disjointed. I didn’t really understand how the pieces fit together besides the fact that each artist is female. I wasn’t sold on the identity of the show, so I was forced to focus in on each piece individually.
Let’s start with the positive. Liz Solo‘s set entitled She, Robot really makes the evening worthwhile. Picture a stand-up set by a female robot comedienne who has come to Earth to perform for a sea of “soft skins,” a.k.a. humans. It’s fresh, poignant and surprisingly entertaining. Solo’s positivity is contagious, she’s like a robotic Pollyanna with a hint of impending doom behind her eyes. Her eery cheerfulness lends for some memorable moments. I also became oddly attached to her seal robot companion which seems to have a life all its own. This performance is unforgettable; she has you in the palm of her hand the entire time and takes you on an intergalactic journey that’s both exciting and unexpected.
The other acts unfortunately didn’t quite measure up to this grand robot finale in my opinion. There are a few funny “stand-up comedy” moments in these pieces, but with the exception of She, Robot, I felt they were few and far between. I also found that the sound and multimedia visuals to be more distracting than to the narrative than helping it. A sonic phonation piece–Blood in my Wires, Dust in my Breath by Tina Pearson–was unique, but didn’t bring the comedy to mine and my guest’s disappointment. It was the only piece that didn’t have a hair of humor in it, and thus felt wildly out of place in a show of female comediennes.
There were also times when I was a bit lost in the narrative of these 30-minute pieces. Whether it was due to sound or video overpowering the actor on stage, or because the stories feeling too melodramatic to be true.
Resurrecting Mary (by Wendi Smallwood), which showed the trials and tribulations of aging in a woman’s world, in particular left me wanting more. I was waiting for a twist or something different to be said about the subject, but it never came.
As someone new to experimental theatre, I was left in the dark for most of this show. I came in expecting laughs and only ended up with a few chuckles at the tail end. But despite this, I will never forget the sheer wonderment I experienced delivered by a robot comedienne and her seal puppet companion.
- Women from the Future is playing at the The Factory Theatre, Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Playing from June 21-24, 2017, see website for dates and times.
- Ticket prices range from 30$ – 45$ and are available to purchase online or at the box office (416-504-9971)
- This venue is accessible.
- Audience Advisory: Mature Content.
Photo provided by the company.