Review: They’re Listening (Echo Productions)

They’re Listening is an “energetic romp through a virtual reality-scape”

Picture of Adrian Yearwood and Cora Matheson in They're ListeningThey’re Listening is a quirky science fiction production from indie Toronto-based theatre company Echo Productions. It’s currently playing at The Collective Space, a community performance, event, and workshop venue. (Be warned, the entrance to the venue is around the back of the building and easy to miss).

Echo Productions’s goal is to produce socially relevant works for the Millenial generation and for audiences who wouldn’t normally view theatre. And They’re Listening is just that. The play is set in a post-apocalyptic world with action sequences modeled like video game adventures. Leveling up, health bars, and other video game features are projected onto the back wall of the stage.

All the sci-fi, video game character tropes are there: the strong leader, the moody one, the healer, the tech guy, the herbalist, the love interest, and the bumbling idiot. All of them get laughs as their characters fumble their way through hostile territory.

This is a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Actors roll around the stage in “stealth mode,” hyperbolizing the action. I enjoyed the creative use of space, props, and actors. The Feline Assassins dance across the stage, their bodies becoming video game-like obstacles for the other characters.

Personally, though, I found the plot difficult to follow. There are a lot of action-packed scenes without a clear sense of what is happening, especially at the beginning. The plot threads tend to get lost, like a brief mention of environmental collapse that is never brought up again.

I feel this 90 minute play could be cut down to an hour to benefit from less action and a tighter plot. However, the high energy comedy keeps the production engaging, even if it’s a bit confusing at times.

For me, the highlight is the live music by Kyle Duffin, meant to sound like a video game soundtrack. The music is probably best described as electronic synth, produced using synth pads, an electronic drum set, and an electric guitar warped with pedal effects.

My guest, an avid gamer, loved the fight scene that mimicked the fighting in the video game Mortal Kombat. The “choose your fighter” faces are projected onto the wall and feature the faces of the cast members, a nice touch. In the fight scene itself, the timing of the health bar depleting as each character is punched and kicked is impeccable.

They’re Listening is an energetic romp through a virtual reality-scape. Although I feel the plot is outshone by the bright neon costumes and strobe lighting, the large cast of young actors give it their all and the audience chuckled through the entire adventure.

Details

    • They’re Listening is playing until December 6, 2019 at The Collective Space (221 Sterling Road, unit 5)
    • Shows run Thursday to Sunday at 8pm, with an additional 10pm show on November 29th and 30th
    • Tickets are $25
    • Tickets are available online, or in person at the box office (cash only)
    • Strobe lighting used

Photo of Adrian Yearwood and Cora Matheson provided by the company

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