Review: The Spectator’s Odyssey – o dell’Inferno (TO Live and DopoLavoro Teatrale)

Photo of a woman (Joyce Powell) standing in front of a painting of a clown painting children's faces. The whole photo is washed with pink light. It is from the show Red Journey

Toronto’s return to live in-person theatre is an opportune time for interactive and immersive theatre. The Spectator’s Odyssey – o dell’Inferno brings the audience backstage into the deep confines of the St Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts and the dark recesses of the historic St Lawrence Market after hours.

The multidisciplinary exploration takes place through two unique experiences, ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’. These combine dance, theatre, music, virtual reality, and more.

In the ‘Red’ journey, the audience becomes Dante descending into the Inferno. We go through the various circles of hell in the darkened halls of the St. Lawrence Market.

In the ‘Blue’ journey, we become Ulysses exploring Homer’s The Odyssey. We embark on an epic journey across the great unknown in the underbelly of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

If you have studied Dante’s Inferno or Homer’s The Odyssey, it has prepared you exceptionally well to enter this experience. But a working knowledge of either text will do you just fine. If not, the mysterious nature of this performance is entertaining enough.

Each journey has a maximum of eight people with staggered entry every 15 minutes. I brought my friend Kira with me for this, which started with the Blue journey at the St. Lawrence Centre. Three others were in our group. The performance commenced with us being led outside to the back of the theatre — a portion of the building only ever used by actors and staff.

A silent dancer, Madeleine Storms, greeted us there. She led us through the winding back hallways eerily lit with coloured LED lights. Despite being in a group, Blue has entirely personal elements. There are moments where you will be left alone – either with a recording to interpret in your own way, or an actor creating a moment just for you.

Throughout the journey, different actors take over, leading the group along. It was like being led through a labyrinth with winding halls and strange rooms. Each installation was greatly different from the last. In one, we watched a dancer on a TV screen dance in silence to the sound of mechanical breathing. In another, we sat in the dark and listened to a deep voice over speakers.

For me, the highlight was Dilay Taskaya, who teased and beckoned us in her Caf Emotion. It was in a small basement room surrounded by a series of pipes secured to a low ceiling – a rather unique take on a strip club. Taskaya spun and slithered around the pipes like a giant in the low ceiling space and made eye contact with seductive come hither looks.

Taskaya then led us to one of eight Emotions where we chose the one that spoke to us. I chose Grief. As I entered the tiny, cramped dressing room alone, I was greeted by a personification of the emotion (Jordan Campbell). Grief stared at me forlornly, directed me to sit on a stool, and put on a VR headset. In virtual reality, I was standing on a rooftop overlooking Dundas Square. In front of me was a woman. She was a soldier, crying and on the verge of a breakdown. Considering the emotion I chose, my one thought was ‘please don’t jump’.

For the Red journey, the same group of three as before joined Kira and I. We began our second experience in the foyer of the St. Lawrence Centre. We were brought up to speed on the story of Dante’s Inferno before an actor led us outside.

And thus this journey began as we first walked, then ran, after the actor. JD Leslie brought us to the loading dock of St. Lawrence Market and into the darkened halls. From there, a series of actors took turns guiding us around the various circles of hell.

Kira and I agreed that Red felt more disjointed than Blue. I certainly felt more lost in the process. Part of that could be exhaustion. I hadn’t anticipated needing to run after an actor, followed by quite a bit of stair climbing, only partially lit, to follow the story.

Some people we encountered in Red included a security guard, Ori Black, who discussed the joys of micro-dosing psilocybin and experimenting with MDMA; a woman in red, Maddalena Vallecchi Williams, who delivered an ominous monologue in Italian; and a mime, Sad Benyoucef, who had an argument with his poop, Nolan Molfetta.

We both preferred Blue more, but experiencing both with the Wayfarer pass is worth it for a more fulfilling night of entertainment overall.

The Spectator’s Odyssey – o dell’Inferno is unique and intriguing. It’s a fun and immersive experience to get reacquainted with live theatre again. Just be prepared to dive into the journey and let it lead you where it will. Also, be ready to be very physically involved.

Details:

  • The Spectator’s Odyssey – o dell’Inferno runs from November 2 – 14 2021 and begins at the St Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts located at 27 Front St E (and continues to the St Lawrence Market at 93 Front St E for the Red journey). The first journey begins at 7:00 pm.
  • Tickets for the Blue Journey and the Red Journey are $49 each, student and arts worker pricing is available for $29. Tickets for the Wayfarer Package (this includes both journeys) are $79 and $55 for arts workers and students.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 416-366-7723, or email at boxoffice@tolive.com.
  • Audience Advisories: Both journeys are immersive and interactive and involve walking, climbing stairs, standing, and running in order to keep pace with the actors. As such, this performance may not be able to accommodate all accessibility requirements. However, the Red journey can be adapted to eliminate the use of stairs during certain time slots if requested. Please call or email the box office to inquire.
  • Comfortable walking shoes and appropriate outer clothing for the weather is recommended. Due to the nature of the performance, late comers are not permitted. It is advised that audience members arrive with a minimum of 15 minutes prior to the start of their journey.
  • Content Note:This performance contains the use of coarse language and mature themes, bright flashing lights, as well as dark and/or confined spaces. As this performance is interactive, actors may come close to you but they will not actively touch you, please do not touch them.
  • Covid 19 Note:Face mask, proof of vaccination or a doctor’s note, and a covid screening questionnaire are required to enter.

Photo of Joyce Powell in the Red Journey by Zahra Saleki

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