Promises to a Divided City Educates but Confuses

Justin Borrow

Staff Writer

Promises to a Divided City, presented by Mammalian Diving Reflex at The Theatre Centre,is a piece devised by the vast group of performers, which tells true tales of the “rich” and the “poor” in the city of Toronto.

The performance was very interactive, took the audience through different rooms, and specifically focused on the class divisions of Toronto. The first room focused on the division of wealth across the city from 1970 to 2025 and described the diminishing middle class. It felt a lot less like a performance piece and more like a conference with a touch of racism. The performers showed images of maps and threw big numbers at the audience, all while ridiculing white families for their “big houses”, “high income”, “family game nights” and “pet dogs”(because apparently this is what every white family consists of). At one point the performer stated “I may look white, but I don’t act white.” At first it was clear they were referencing statistics, but after a while it became more offensive than eye opening. The entire performance took the audience through a total of 4 rooms, before having them make a promise to the city of Toronto to experience something new.

Promises to a Divided City did address concerns about wealth that many Torontonians face, but may not be fully aware of. It had many educational facts and it was evident that a lot of research went into the show, but the show was lacking in theatrical elements. It was choppy at best and extremely confusing. Beginning as what could have been passed off as a class presentation and ending with the audience choosing a restaurant in Toronto they promise to visit within a year, the show just did not flow.

The set design was minimal until the audience reached room number 3, which consisted of silhouetted buildings and colourful clouds that were designed spectacularly by Kalpna Patel and lit by Remington North. It was the most theatrical room/part of the show and the most entertaining, however, it was also the one part of the show that seemed to not fit in with the rest.

Promises to a Divided City presents itself as a socialist movement preaching equality of wealth. It opens the audiences’ eyes regarding the gap between the rich and the poor and entertains through some awkward jokes and even more awkwardly addressing the wealth of members of the audience. In the end, Promises to a Divided City misses its mark as a theatrical spectacle.