No doubt we’ve all been in that situation where someone sitting at a table near us is talking so loudly that we can’t help but listen to what they are saying. Table 7 – A Plays in Cafes Creation by Shadowpath takes that experience a step further with audiences in this site-specific piece playing at Paintbox Bistro at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
I’m always excited to see how a venue will play into a site-specific show, and Paintbox Bistro was a perfect choice for Table 7. The way the space allows for a separate area for the performance, and business as usual in the rest of the space, is great. It all blends together so seamlessly that if it weren’t for the signs on the clear glass separating us, you would never know the difference between the two spaces. Plus, there’s the bonus of being able to have some delicious food and beverages while watching a show.
But that’s not the only reason it’s the perfect venue. Table 7 is an exploration of the tensions created through the gentrification of a neighbourhood. Paintbox Bistro is a lovely spot with delicious food staffed by delightful people. But it’s smack-dab in the middle of the Regent Park redevelopment. As an organization, it is known for its commitment to hiring from local marginalized communities and generally being responsible and good as a business. But as a place to eat, it is probably out of reach for your average low-income diner. It basically encapsulates some of the push and pull explored in the piece.
Chantal Forde’s script presents us with the same altercation between patrons, played out three times, from the perspective of three different people. And we, fellow diners, witness all three versions.
The details may differ, but the gist is the same. People on both sides feel entitled to the space they’re in, and are threatened by the other person’s presence. Each person’s biases and expectations affect how they see and experience events.
The production is filled with strong performers who are able to consistently adapt their characters between each version of the altercation. Julia Beaulieu (Rosie), Kaila Hunte (Tali), Alexandrine M’Banga (Carla), Violet Mount (Diana) and Tea Nguyen (Manager) all manage shifts that hold a thread of the same character throughout, even with more dramatic changes.
The theme of how our biases affect how we view things came through nicely for me with Mandy Roveda’s direction. In the story from Carla’s point of view, Diana felt like almost more of a caricature than a person. But when we shifted to Diana’s point of view, it was Carla who felt like a caricature. These choices made it seem clear to me that whatever they had faced, whatever had developed their biases, meant that these two were unable to see each other as a whole people.
During the third telling of the altercation, the manager turns to the rest of the patrons in the restaurant – that’s us – to seek clarification about what happened. At one point during the discussion people seemed to forget their role was ‘café patron’ and it started delving into ‘theatre talk-back’ territory. Nguyen – who was leading the discussion as Manager – skillfully steered the conversation back on course. It was interesting to hear the viewpoints of the audience. After the discussion, the audience is invited to use their smartphones and the café’s wifi to cast a vote about what to do next.
I really enjoyed the piece, but what I enjoy more is how much I keep thinking about it after. I like plays that stay with me like that. I recommend heading to the east end and taking this one in, and while you’re there have some yummy food or a tasty beverage – it really is the best way to enjoy a show.
- Plays In Cafes plays at the Paintbox Bistro. (555 Dundas St. E.)
- 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 (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; audience participation; not recommended for children.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 5:00 pm
- Friday July 5th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 2:00 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 1:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 4:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 2:00 pm
Photo of Violet Mount Julia Beaulieu Alex M’Banga by Tim Cadeny