805-4821, written and performed by Davis Plett and playing at SummerWorks 2019, is a story about life, family, relationships, coming out, and sexual abuse that pushes the definitions of performance.
The production is a film made up almost completely of text on an overhead projector, with some very short, silent clips from movies and TV. The project was started when Davis Plett received a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council to create a performance for overhead projection. The film was initially inspired by the “golden age of silent films.”
There are audio companions provided if you need or want one. I didn’t take an audio companion, and had the experience of sitting in an almost completely silent room full of strangers for an hour. At first, I felt like the text was going by so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to digest it. But as I acclimated to the performativity of text, I was able to savour this very layered production.
Hamlet is the stage that 805-4821 is cast against, and vice versa. Plett pulls similarities and metaphors from Shakespeare, often using their own name interchangeably with Hamlet’s. Both Plett and Hamlet sometimes find themselves talking to ghosts.
This production covers many topics, but at its core is Plett’s trans coming out story and their experience of sexual abuse. Plett weaves a touching, poetic, and sometimes sharply funny text. They play with concepts of masculinity and relay Facebook messenger conversations with their best friend (dramaturge Gislina Patterson).
As Plett questions the nature of masculinity, the projector delivers one of my favourite lines: “I’m sluggish, very tired, not a fighter and I have no business playing Shakespeare.” Plett asks a lot of hard questions, and often doesn’t give us the answers. To be or not to be? I.e. are we really present?
805-4821 is a confessional. It is a work about how sacred and how messy humans are. It is a queer auto biopic that transcends all the conventional boundaries. The film is an inward spiral. It presents its themes loosely and then addresses them over and over in ever-tightening circles until we understand the core of Plett’s story and their message.
This is a challenging production, in its presentation and its subject matter, but worth the challenge. Go see this very unique work. And if you want to relive this production (which I do) you can buy the transcript that has been turned into a zine.
805-4821 is playing at the Gamma Gallery in the Toronto Media Arts Centre (32 Lisgar Street)
- Saturday August 10th 3:00pm – 4:00pm
- Monday August 12th 8:00pm – 9:00pm
- Tuesday August 13th 6:30pm – 7:30pm
- Wednesday August 14th 9:00pm – 10:00pm
- Friday August 16th 9:30pm – 10:30pm
- Saturday August 17th 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Warnings: Reading required, explicit references to sex, gender dysphoria, violent intrusive thoughts and sexual trauma
Information on Tickets and Passes
SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.
Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12pm-8pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.
Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.
Photo of Davis Plett by Callie Lugosi