Three days, two con­ti­nents and a big dose of un­cer­tainty

StarMetro Toronto - - DAILY LIFE - Karen Fricker

MORE BACK­GROUND ON THE TROUPE AT THES­TAR.COM/STAGE Michael Toron­tow and Gly­nis Ran­ney in the un­named mu­si­cal pre­sented by Talk Is Free Theatre as part of The Cu­ri­ous Voy­age that trav­els to Lon­don, Eng­land. A theatre pro­duc­tion that spans three days and two con­ti­nents: you can’t deny it grabs the at­ten­tion.

That’s ex­actly the gam­bit be­hind The Cu­ri­ous Voy­age, a pro­ject that sees au­di­ence mem­bers spend up to $2,000 (be­fore flights and meals) to jour­ney be­tween Bar­rie, Ont., and Lon­don, Eng­land, for a se­ries of one-on-one and group ex­pe­ri­ences lead­ing up to a fully staged, site-spe­cific mu­si­cal theatre pro­duc­tion.

The pro­ject’s out­sized am­bi­tion is in the in­ter­est of gen­er­at­ing hype that will raise the pro­file of Canadian theatre artists and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to un­der­take “grav­ity-less risk,” says its master­mind, Arkady Spi­vak, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Bar­rie’s Talk Is Free Theatre. While the pro­ject has en­joyed un­de­ni­able suc­cess, it also hit snags along the way, ev­i­dence that abun­dant risk-tak­ing with hu­man sub­jects re­quires equally abun­dant earth­bound care.

The $650,000 pro­duc­tion bud­get is drawn al­most en­tirely

from govern­ment grants, and pri­vate and cor­po­rate fundrais­ing; only 4 per cent comes from ticket sales.

Talk Is Free has used site­spe­cific for­mats be­fore — its pro­duc­tion of The Mu­sic Man was set in mul­ti­ple Bar­rie lo­ca­tions — but Spi­vak didn’t find these fully sat­is­fy­ing.

“You’re wel­com­ing an au­di­ence in a non-tra­di­tional set­ting, but you are treat­ing them tra­di­tion­ally” — per­form­ers in The Mu­sic Man pre­tended not to see au­di­ence mem­bers even though they were inches away. The next step was “take an au­di­ence and make them the cen­tre, or at least (en­gage with them) with­out a bound­ary,” says Spi­vak.

Two Toronto artis­tic di­rec­tors cre­ated the show with Spi­vak — Daniele Bar­tolini of DLT built the im­mer­sive con­tent, while Out­side the March’s Mitchell Cush­man di­rected the mu­si­cal — and it was at their urg­ing that the mu­si­cal’s ti­tle has been kept se­cret: “It’s this whole idea that you ac­cess the work through a dif­fer­ent men­tal state” if you don’t know what you’re see­ing in ad­vance, says Spi­vak.

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