By Melissa Farmer
So let’s get a few things straight. This will be a very personal and biased response to Spent. There will be no money puns, none at all, to be found in the next150 words. If I don’t know you, if you know nothing about “that Lehman guy”, if you hate everything all the time, I still think you should go and see this show. Here’s why:
Spent is relatable and smart. Set within the framework of a BBC news broadcast, we meet not only a pair of Bay street traders who have lost their jobs, but also the media who are reporting on the catalytic economic collapse. As the two downtrodden buffoons leap from a building in an effort to make it all go away, we are right there with them (and, we have been here before) pre-fall, mid-plummet, post-collapse. We giggle at a twitching Richard Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers who has managed to keep his pockets full; we giddily abhor the greedy devils and their maniacal gluttonous Hell and we recognize that guy we’ve all seen on the news who just wants to know how he’s going to afford his next burger. In its swift seventy minutes, we meet a bunch of absurd characters (all skilfully played by Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza) who offer different ways in to the bigger question: to a collective who can put a price on everything, how much is an individual worth? It’s inventive, energetic, clever, fun theatre.
My cheeks hurt from smiling for seventy minutes straight. From Jain’s entrance with a “Hire Me” sign and a shaky, hopeful smile, I was sold. As Bay street traders, these two out-of-luck sad sacks are just trying to make tomorrow better than today. As the sundry other characters they play, Ravi and Adam emerge as masters of their craft. Their rapid-fire precision is incredible. On this stage, they are having fun and they are working really really hard. They are sweaty and spitty and you will still want to shake their hand, pat them on the back and give them a spitty, sweaty hug. It’s such a gift to be able to watch someone do something that he’s really really good at doing. It’s something I want to do more often.
Go see Spent. It has a short run, so hurry. Theatre like this is a rare commodity.
SPENT is on now until at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane). For tickets call:
416-866-8666 or click here.
Oddly enough the thought of "documentary theatre" never entered my mind. But once it had, and once I was ten minutes into Crow's Theatre's production of SEEDS, I was flabbergasted that no one had done it before. If they had, I sure hadn't heard of it.
Currently on stage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts is SEEDS, a documentary theatre piece about the historial battle between the agricultural corporate giant Monsanto, creator of many genetically modified crops (in this case Canola), and Saskatchewan Canola farmer Percy Schmeiser. The legal battle commenced when Monsanto sued Schmeiser for using their genetically modified canola seeds without paying the royalties for it ($15/acre). Schmeiser fought back maintaining he didn't steal the GMO seeds, but that they were blown onto his land from neighbouring farms because of weather and other means beyond his control.
The story unfolds with the character of the playwright (the ever amazing Lisa Repo-Martell) as the central narrator. We watch as she goes about her research for writing the play, interviewing Monsanto employees, scientists, farmers, Schmeiser, etc. (what the playwright Annabel Soutar actually did), and as she finds out information and puts the story together, the audience is simultaneously let into the loop along with her.
Clearly Monsanto, the sleazy, bottom-line, corporate giant, is hiding something. Clearly, they're trying to make an example of Schmeiser and let the rest of the farmers know, if there was any doubt, who's boss. Or are they? All of the above may be true, but just how innocent is Schmeiser? What does he get out of this fight?
My emotions were played like a fiddle and I loved it. I love a show that has me hating the enemy one minute, but empathizing with them the next; I'm reminded of the varying sides to every story, I feel like I'm getting a well-rounded explanation of events, and that my resulting opinion is based on a story told as objectively as possible. It's so satisfying.
SEEDS is educational (Canadian history AND science, together!), well executed, outrageously well acted (how many different physicalities can Alex Ivanovici do? Eric Peterson is also at his finest.) and the set is beyond cool. When entering the theatre, you're greeted by the actors, in costume, milling about a set that's a cross between a modern university lecture hall, a science lab and a living room. It looks rad and the multi-dimensional uses of it, are even radder.
Now that I've experienced it, I am convinced that documentary theatre is something that has been absent from my life for far too long, and if SEEDS is any indication of what documentary theatre is all about, I am thrilled about the prospects of its future in my life.
Don't let the confusing poster design scare you off; you should see this innovative show.
SEEDS is currently on at the Yonge Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill St., Building 49). unti March 10. For tickets, click here or call: 416-866-8666.