Review: Affioramenti (Surfacing) (DopoLavoro Teatrale/Progress Festival)

Picture of various items washed ashore by Antonella Bersani for Affioramenti (Surfacing)

Affioramenti (Surfacing) is a unique, immersive experience combining installation with immersive theatre.

Affioramenti (Surfacing), presented by DopoLavoro Teatrale, is now on at The Theatre Centre as part of Progress Festival. A collaboration of visual artist Antonella Bersani and composer/videographer Matteo Pennese, Affioramenti invites its audience to co-create a unique oceanic world over the course of 30 minutes.

Affioramenti is hard to describe as one medium – its part installation, part immersive and interactive theatre, with a bit of spoken word. The piece is quite intimate as each performance is only limited to six audience members.

As noted on the show’s website, you’re invited to bring an object of personal significance (I brought a boxing hand wrap) to leave behind for part of the show. The company has a few items on hand in case you forget to bring your own. Anyone attending the show has the option to leave their object behind for the remainder of the show’s run.

Pennese awaits you in the theatre, guiding you in a “choir” of spoken word. He cues you when to start and stop and the quality of your delivery. At some point in the performance, he leads you to where you’re to drop off your item. This part of the process was quite unexpected, so I won’t say more so you can experience it for yourself.

This piece is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Looking back on it only a few hours later, it feels like a distant dream, and an experience that lasted longer than just 30 minutes. One of the central parts to this installation – the choir – felt mindful, if not trancelike, to be a part of. When I was briefly separated from the group, part of my experience was taking in Bersani’s installation piece (intended to be the sea) and hearing the “choir”. Listening to their overlapping text reminded me of waves crashing on the shore.

Maybe it’s because this is always on my mind, but I can’t help but wonder if the written text for the “choir” was informed by climate change. I won’t share the specific lines here, but the lines that stood out the most to me had both a nostalgic and apocalyptic quality – the narrator recalls a non-specific place in which they used to live but was forced to leave. Furthermore, Bersani’s installation felt like I was walking into a recent shipwreck, or an abandoned, ransacked home. All told, a few elements of this installation felt like I was walking into a “post-human” world. I didn’t feel the same degree of anxiety that I usually feel about this though – the whole experience felt quite peaceful.

In sum, I thought this was a truly unique installation, and one that I would recommend experiencing for yourself.


    • Affioramenti (Surfacing) is on until February 9, 2020 at The Theatre (1115 Queen St West), part of Progress Festival
    • Shows run Wednesday to Sunday at 30 minute intervals between 6pm and 10pm.
    • Tickets are $25
    • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-538-0988, or in person at the box office

Picture by Antonella Bersani