SummerWorks 2009: The Graveyard Shift
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SummerWorks 2009: The Graveyard Shift

Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.

What happens during the night shift? That’s the simple question which provokes Suburban Beast‘s new docudrama show The Art of Catching Wild Pigeons by Torchlight. An off-site performance at Rolly’s Garage on Ossington (note: a real garage, not the name of a hipster bar), Wild Pigeons invites you into a sleepover blanket fort—complete with flashlights—to listen to a group of actors in plaid shirts sing Neil Young songs and tell “ghost stories.” The stories in the script, created by Jordan Tannahill, are all taken from real interviews the actors conducted with various night owls: a prostitute, an insomniac, night-shifters at Tim Horton’s and Wal-Mart, a Nunavut prison guard, and many others. Each story is accompanied by a slide show, and occasionally a shadow play with the aid of blankets and flashlights (note to Suburban Beast: the shadow stuff worked really well, but there wasn’t enough of it; more shadow puppets, please).
The stories themselves manage to be fresh and captivating each time, and it’s interesting to chart connections and similar themes in these people’s lives. There’s also great work being done by each of the cast members, who are all highly watchable and appealing in different ways. Amelia Sargisson in particular demonstrates enormous range in the two characters she plays. Not everything about the show is perfect. Although the stories are all interesting, their tenuous, thematic connection to each other means that it’s impossible to create much dramatic momentum to the evening; one gets the sense that these stories could just go on forever. And a moment involving flashlights that doesn’t quite seem to work the way the company wants it to makes me think a few more days of rehearsal could have been in order. But the company really commits to its concept and its aesthetic, and the result is a unique, fascinating piece of theatre.
The Art of Catching Wild Pigeons by Torchlight is next performed tonight at 8 p.m.
SummerWorks runs until August 16 at various locations around the city. Check back for Torontoist’s daily coverage throughout the festival.