Here Me : a play on the homonym hear/here. A comment on how performer Amelia Nyla Jakaša wants your attention. A focus on the audience being present in the room. This essentially wordless show about communication and connection produced by aestrider is one of the most unique experiences you’ll have at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.
This show may push the limits of audience participation farther than some people can handle. The house lights never fully go down. The show begins with the deaf performer striving for contact with each audience member through imitation of their postures and expressions.
It takes time to proceed through the people, for Jakaša to connect with everyone. But she does. Due to the inevitable variances in attendance, this portion of the show may take more or less time based on how individual audiences choose to respond to her invitation to “mess up her show”.
Initially, I was reticent to make eye contact with the artist. I’m not fond of performer interactions in general. But since the show begins with it, I struggled to contextualize how this in-your-face request fit into a pseudo-dance presentation. Especially since nothing more than a land acknowledgement had occurred.
Once I gave in, being mocked for the way I was seated, it was fine. We shrugged, we smiled, we smirked. We found connection through our similar hair, which made everyone giggle just a bit.
Onstage, Jakaša is incredibly personable and amusing. Her flexible body astounded me as she convulsively writhed against the floor. She’s also very perceptive. Playfully borrowing items from members of the audience, Jakaša later gracefully hands back each piece, thanking everyone in a different affectionate way.
Clearly our Canadian manners became an issue for some audience members regarding what type of touch was permissible and uncertainty if touch was invited at all. At one crucial point, we are requested to pass a prop-I-won’t-name from person to person and it was evident how little some folks wanted to touch the item – or even the person before or after them!
The show feels generally unstructured and is guided by when/how the audience connects with the performer. It is clearly a personal and profound show, though not necessarily a comfortable piece. At the first performance, there was a clear imbalance of men to women participating with the men more physically present while the women smiled in their seats.
There is sound – sometimes atmospheric music, and at one point a Kyrie Eleison – used throughout. The music draws attention to itself approximately halfway through, when the aforementioned prop is passed around. Unfortunately, in that moment, the stage manager’s conversation was very noticeable during the opening night performance.
Here Me features full nudity and may not be for the prudish. However, part of the point is vulnerability and awkwardness because that’s how to start connecting with each other. Silent communication forces each of us to look one another in the eye and discover the person sitting with us. Maybe that’s what we need in the middle of the bustle of the Fringe.
- Here Me plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman 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 Warnings: Unsuitable for minors; Nudity; Audience participation.
- This venue is barrier-free. Patrons who use wheelchairs or who cannot climb stairs are seated in the front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday July 5th, 10:45 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 7:15 pm
- Monday July 9th, 6:30 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 10:15 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 4:15 pm
- Friday July 13th, 2:00 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 12:15 pm
Photo of Amelia Nyla Jakaša by Hernani Sagra