Hiraeth (The Hiraeth Collective) 2019 SummerWorks Review

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Hiraeth, playing at this year’s SummerWorks Festival, is a retrospective look at the painful and awkward times of preteen-hood on the brink of Y2K. Stylized as a sharing session during group therapy, this is a one-woman story by Mandy E. MacLean as she emotionally relives those formative years for your pleasure.

This isn’t what I thought this show was going to be. The SummerWorks listing makes this show seem like it’s going to be more participatory than it actually is. The audience isn’t actually required to do anything, though MacLean does hand out party favors at one point that don’t actually get used before everyone is asked to return them. This is a very intimate show, as the small audience is seated in the round just like group therapy and MacLean uses all the available space she has to her, right to your toes and even behind your seats to tell her story.

The show starts off in awkwardness. The audience sits in silence and stares at one another, waiting for a show to happen, when finally MacLean blunders in with a whirlwind of bags, disheveled hair and a coffee cup, declaring “I’m late!”. Interestingly enough, MacLean worked her land acknowledgement into her performance, making sure that she was correctly pronouncing Haudenosaunee.

Her story is disjointed, then again aren’t all stories told by 11-year-olds more or less disjointed? So it takes a bit of work from the viewer to follow along. What I was able to take away from her story is her struggle to find her young self’s identity when faced with peer pressure and her interaction with boys.

She does make creative use of simple props – chalk on the floor, her glasses and a flashlight as her navigation to the world of boys, and a cassette player acting as both her soundtrack and her voice from afar.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to think of Hiraeth. MacLean’s a great story teller and she’s certainly animated when doing so. The parts are good, but together it’s just not something that I’m finding myself gravitating to.

Hiraeth is playing at the Toronto Media Arts Centre Gamma Gallery (32 Lisgar Street).
  • Saturday August 10th 12:30 pm – 1:20 pm
  • Sunday August 11th 4:00 pm – 4:50 pm
  • Tuesday August 13th 8:30 pm – 9:20 pm
  • Thursday August 15th 6:30 pm – 7:20 pm
  • Friday August 16th 7:30 pm – 8:20 pm
  • Saturday August 17th 2:30 pm – 3:20 pm
Warnings: Mature themes
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 12 pm-8 pm. 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 by Matt Carter.