Daphne’s Inferno by Bad Seed Productions, playing virtually at the 2021 Digital Fringe Festival, is a take on the classic tale of Dante’s Inferno. Daphne (Barb Scheffler) wanders into a strange little coffee shop, the Inferno Café, while looking for her husband. There she is greeted by the barista Virginia (Jillian Rees-Brown). When Daphne tries to leave, she sees that the door is blocked. Virginia informs her that she cannot leave the way she entered; the only way out is through.
As Daphne gathers her thoughts and prepares for her journey, she is greeted by the mysterious Lucy (Erin Eldershaw) who informs Daphne that she is indeed at the gates of Hell and in order to find her way out she must traverse through the circles of Hell.
In doing so, Daphne is forced to confront the darkest chapters in her life, from her abusive father, her horrendous high school relationship, to her sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbor. But when she hears the tragic truth from from her daughter, she finds herself at the edge of no return.
As was the case with most theatre companies trying to create theatre during the pandemic, the process was filled with complications. Daphne’s Inferno was originally written as a stage show but then had to be adapted to fit a Zoom call setting. In order to maintain social distancing, the actors were filmed separately.
Watching the performance, it does feel like the energy and chemistry between actors is muted, which can be expected considering they filmed their parts on their own. That aside, the effort to create an engaging piece of theatre that dives deep into the effects of trauma and grief is definitely evident.
I rather enjoyed Eldershaw’s portrayal of Lucy and it’s clear how much fun she had with the character. Her portrayal was sassy and biting, just the way the Devil should be. Scheffler also does a fine job portraying Daphne, in particular when she is left to relive her past traumatic experiences. Knowing that she had to film those scenes on her own means Scheffler was left to freely explore the deeply internalized emotions at her will and it adds vulnerability to her performance.
Scheffler is also the creator of Daphne’s inferno with director Michael Harms. Despite the various roadblocks caused by Covid, the production they created is quite well done. Scheffler’s writing in this show is smart and relevant and Harms directing is effective and engaging within the confines of Zoom.
Daphne’s Inferno is a fine effort from Bad Seed Productions. They’ve created an intriguing piece of theatre that still captivates the audience despite being filmed over Zoom. It’s well worth checking out during the Fringe this year.
- Daphne’s Inferno 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 a 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: This performance contains discussion of depression, sexual assault, abuse, and self harm. Viewer discretion is advised.
Photo of Jillian Rees-Brown, Barb Scheffler, Erin Eldershaw by Michael Harms