Adapted from the award-winning podcast of the same name, Gangway! Theatre Company’s Six Stories, Told at Night, currently playing at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival, is a lyrical story about the ambiguous traumas of heartbreak and loss; but it’s also a mythic epic of self-discovery, empathy, identity formation, and the transformative power of storytelling. Most vitally, however, Six Stories is a fairy tale.
The play has multiple intersecting narratives. The literal plot follows the friendship of two women, Samantha (Blythe Haynes) and Joëlle (Alexandra Milne), from childhood to their eventual drifting apart into a vague state of distant friendship. Joëlle is a feverish storyteller, while Sam is happy to listen, afraid to participate herself. Then, out of nowhere, Joëlle disappears, leaving behind a usb of audio files that contain readings of five French-Canadian fairy tales (yes, five–the sixth is explained later).
Specifically, the show uses the folk tales of Bonhomme Sept-Heures, Rose LaTulippe, le Chien d’Or, the Wendigo, and la Corriveau. These make up the additional narratives, woven in and out of key points in the challenging but deeply rooted friendship between Joëlle and Samantha as both women take on the roles within them. Once Joëlle disappears without any explanation beyond wanting to go to ‘the place the stories come from’, the tales they shared become the medium through which Sam expresses her fears, joys, traumas and heartbreak.
The show frequently contrasts the contemporary world with the predatory, violent worlds of the fairy tales, and the result is that each feels equally full of danger. Lovely staging involves a hat-rack that characters draw from at random, making a point of letting the audience see them trying on and taking off the roles. The lines are always intriguingly blurred.
The character of Sam carries much of the dialogue and narration as our focal point through the search for Joëlle. Haynes gives a brave and generous performance, giving everything to the audience from minute one, maintaining a raw vulnerability and uncompromising sincerity until the curtain call. The story she’s telling feels like it’s bubbling and spilling out of her uncontrollably. In contrast, there’s a complex internal burn to Alexandra Milne’s performance, as Joëlle’s damage is hidden behind a careless attitude and a haunted gaze. The two pair intriguingly together.
A friend who came along with me admitted that she got lost a little among the metaphors in the play’s final act. I didn’t quite feel that way—instinctively I wanted a bit more closure regarding the contemporary elements, but intuitively I also recognize that loss isn’t always so easily resolved. The show resists a straightforward answer in the end, and in doing so, perhaps invites you to imagine your own ending to the story.
- Six Stories, Told at Night plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: Sexual content.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday July 5th, 10:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 5:45 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 8:45 pm
- Monday July 9th, 1:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 7:30 pm
- Friday July 13th, 3:30 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 1:00 pm
Photo of Blythe Haynes by Melanie Book