May 29th 2015
I came out of Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play and thought “this is the future of theatre”. I was only partly talking about the play. I was most impressed by the audience who were overwhelmingly young. The kind of audience every established theatre in Toronto is desperately wooing. They should consider down scaling their facility. The Aztec Theatre on Gerrard East, for this production re-christened “historic”, is a dive – a grunge palace with sagging, faded plush seats, peeling black paint and dim lighting. It reminded me of Peter Brooke’s Theatre in Paris (Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord) which was renovated to look like a ruin. “America doesn’t have enough ruins”, Brooke opined, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music followed his lead. (confused patrons would wander around asking, “when will the renovations be over?”) But back to the Aztec. We were in an old movie theatre and we were treated to beer ($6) and popcorn ($5) from wandering costumed salespeople. We were relaxed. It was great. And packed. And the tickets were not cheap (use code SCORPIO to save 30%). All of this was proof that live theatre has a place in the hearts and wallets of young Torontonians. Sure, some of the attendance must accrue to the popularity of The Simpsons but that’s just good showmanship. And the show itself was great. Committed performances, wonky, low tech production values, direction, music, choreography, masks and some killer puppets.
And the play…? Well, the play…? Sorry. Longer discussion. But let me say this. Playwright Anne Washburn has common cause with Sarah Ruhl (Passion Play last summer) and our own Jordan Tannahill. This is Theatre of Failure, a theatre of broken characters, a theatre with no linear narrative, a theatre that blends styles of performance and leaves a time bomb ticking in our hearts and minds. In a broken theatre. Runs until June 7th.