The Toronto Premiere of Conte d’amour, meaning The Tale of Love in French, is playing at the World Stage Festival at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Upon doing some research on the production, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. Writer and Director, Markus Öhrn, presents a piece that is intense, thought provoking, and leaves the audience in awe. Since 2010, Conte d’amour has wowed audiences worldwide and reached critical acclaim. Along with the Swedish touring theatre group, the Institutet, and the Finish theatre company, Nya Rampen, Öhrn has used multi-platform methods of performance to capture a very unstable and disturbing home life.
Öhrn uses live theatre, tied in with live video, to capture what seems to be a routine event in the home. Initially, three characters are introduced in darkness. Their father brings them McDonald’s for dinner. We soon realize that these characters are not “normal.” The father traps them in the basement and their mental states are reflective of that reality.
There are four performers in this production, all male. While the characters are not given any distinct names, I can identify that one is the “father” character, dressed simply in a bathrobe and underwear. The other three characters seemingly are children, whether or not they are truly children, or are just brainwashed into considering themselves children is just one of the layers that Öhrn makes you consider. One of the amazing questions this production evokes is whether or not this is all a part of the “father’s” imagination.
The three-hour performance was performed in German and in English, with English subtitles during the German moments. I actually speak German so I did not need them, but I thought they were an appropriate touch for other audience members who did not speak the language. The actors in this performance were absolutely flawless. After four years of touring with this production, this company truly knows their characters and understands how they function in this dysfunctional home.
Öhrn’s production challenges the audience to think about the reality of this home, and the reality of those in it. It challenges you to wonder how people could live like this, and what draws them to create this type of day-to-day life.
Conte d’amour runs until April 5th at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre. Tickets for Conte d’amour are available via Harbourfront Centre’s Box Office. Patrons can call 416-973-4000, visit 235 Queens Quay West and/or go online for all ticket inquiries at http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage/contedamour/.
photo credit: Robin Junicke