Sunday, February 14, 2016

That's the ticket

What a golden age, with film and television and whatever music you want at the press of a button. 

I find myself craving live entertainment in intimate venues that are a bit off-beat.  So I'm fortunate to be in Toronto with such amazing choices close at hand.

I was mesmorized by Cold Blood at the Bluma Apel theatre. Visually spellbinding and choreographed, with the live performances captured cinematically and projected real time. This was billed as 'ephemeral theatre,' and when I saw it advertized I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but I am so glad I gave it a chance! Miniature sets are rolled out in front of the camera, and the performers take the stage using only their hands to convey emotion and dance. It sounds bizarre, but within seconds I was riveted. It reminded me of times camping and casting silhouettes, or doing shadow play with flashlights as a kid. The story line was macabre and jarring. It was about dying seven different times, very ghoulishly. The black humour really pushed the limits at times. If the story hadn't been so wicked would I have taken such pleasure in the visual experience? Hard to say. 


The Chelsea Hotel has played across Canada to sold out houses for a few years but felt fresh.  Six musician/dancers enact Leonard Cohen's creative process and muses in the Chelsea hotel. The interpretation of the LC classics brought a new dimension to the poetry. It was interesting to hear different voices and interpretations. Violins, bass, guitar, banjo and ukulele were played while the talented performers danced. Fantasitc!


And then there was Hogtown.  Set in Toronto, during the time of Prohibition. There were easily 30+ performers and musicians awakening the era in the historic Campbell House. The first half was enacted in sequence, and the audience moved from one room to the next as the story played out. After the first three scenes, you were free to wander to the different rooms and watch different scenarios. Since events are happening simultaneously, so by choosing one room over the other, you  'miss' what was happening in the other rooms.  I would have gone back again if the other performances weren't sold out. It really felt like I was in a speak easy, and in the dining room of a politician, and in the bedrooms of ill-fated lovers.

This play was billed as immersive, "the audience are not merely passive bystanders. They are part of the story, however small their role may be, and they are in the middle of the action... the audience in some way plays a role, whether that is the role of witness or the role of an actual character." I had  some interaction with the actors and was invited to sit at the dinner table, but wasn't put in the spotlight, which suited me just fine.

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