Review: The Things I Carry (Dancemakers / Theatre Passe Muraille)

Choreographer Lee Su-Feh creates a participatory meditation on migration in Toronto

Developed as part of the Migrant Bodies Project, The Things I Carry is a solo performance by seasoned artist Lee Su-Feh. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille and Dancemakers, Su-Feh tells stories while reflecting on her life and other’s surrounding the topic of migration.

Greeted with complimentary tea, I entered the classroom turned performance space within the Scadding Court Community Centre. The colourful mismatched foldable chairs surround a blue tarp which lays on the floor, creating a casual and intimate atmosphere. Su-Feh begins with the most touching land acknowledgement I’ve seen to date. Rather than reading the typical script, Su-Feh is almost brought to tears as she connects with the land through her own past of forgotten and silenced histories.

Su-Feh then invites you to take out your phone and audio record the performance. The first half of the work is mostly told through oral storytelling. The slight use of movement that is slow yet full of intention marries her words and stories.

Through the second half of the piece, the audience is asked to play back the audio recording of the show thus far. This, in turn, creates a beautiful soundscape as Su-Feh transitions to a more movement-orientated part of the performance. You hear echos of her stories from all different parts of the room as she responds in real time. The movement is slow and rounded, low to the ground, and focused in on a small portable light. As Su-Feh transitions to standing, images from her stories begin to show and morph throughout the space.

The community atmosphere within the room is palpable. Su-Feh is open with the audience and asks for participation and dialogue as if we are all in this together. At one point she asks the audience if they know how to say water in any other languages, at another she creates a whole choir singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” One of my favourite moments of the piece was when Su-Feh performed powerful excerpts from On A Plane, by Indigenous writer and artist Chris Bose.

Although Su-Feh has openly talked about her resistance to making a solo for herself, I am so glad she did. The work is full of important stories about people, places and history. The movement and intention behind Su-Feh performance is beautiful. The Things I Carry is a great way to spend an evening.

Details:

  • The Things I Carry is playing at the Scadding Court Community Centre (707 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON).
  • It is playing until April 28th, 2019.
  • Performances are at 7:30 pm till April 27th. There are two PWYC matinee performances on April 27th and 28th at 2:00 pm.
  • Tickets are $17 – $33, available online or cash at the door.

Photo of Lee Su-Feh by Thum Chia Chieh.

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