I wasn’t sure what to expect from Christopher Elizabeth Boyd’s Balance, from Pickles Digital Theatre Co. playing at this year’s digital Fringe Festival. What I got was a heartfelt examination of life, mental health, and living within society as Boyd delves into their own anxieties, fears, and memories.
Boyd’s awkward, self-conscious introduction is charming, so when they begin to spiral into their anxious monologue, the anxiety on the screen reaches outward for the audience. Boyd touches on race, class, and other social issues in how they affect them and shape the society in which they live.
Bouncing back and forth from the personal to the communal, the discussion is perfectly balanced as Boyd tries to balance themself. All the fears in Boyd’s world bubble over and they periodically take a new prescription or non-prescription drug to focus, calm down, find joy, or self-soothe.
The camera effects help build tension and set the tone with credit to director of photography Demetre Kalmantis. As Boyd spirals into anxiety, the camera goes out of focus or shakes, we momentarily see two Boyds as he seems to be feeling out-of-body.
The visual effects are simple but powerful. My guest’s favourite aspect was the consistency of the colour scheme in the background: the books, crystals, and even the mop handles were yellow. They found it a thought-provoking and intelligent way to help keep the audience’s focus within the backdrop of a single setting.
I also loved the glimpse into Boyd’s world that included a plant, lava lamp, small female bust, and many basses or guitars (I couldn’t quite see which but I assume both). As they move through their highs and lows, it sometimes feels as if Boyd is talking directly to me, while other times they seem to be lost in their own anxieties or memories.
My favourite quote comes after Boyd takes their psilocybin, what they refers to as their perspective: “I’m like a child without agency. The only thing for me to do is just observe and enjoy my surroundings. It’s only when I see my reflection that I am reminded of my existence.”
Although Boyd is referring to how they responded to mushrooms, I feel this quote encapsulates the production. As an audience member, I had the pleasure of watching Boyd’s perspective on the world, flowing in and out of body, reminded of my own existence in this society, for better or for worse.
- Balance is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
- Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
- Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
- Accessibility notes:
- On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
- Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
- Content Warning: Discussion of mental health, prescription and non-prescription drugs, mature language.