On a stage cluttered with nothing but lamps, performer Valerie Buhagiar is not alone. Each lamp is like a person – simple and functioning. As audience members, we are faced with the inevitable. Just as human beings are born and then die, the light from each lamp will eventually fade to black. The show is over. But just like the death of a loved one, its message still remains. It is a part of our everyday existence.
Written and directed by Tine Van Aerschot, we are not afraid of the dark is inspired by Tracy Wright – Van Aerschot’s fellow theatre artist, friend and coworker who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and passed away in 2010. Despite her illness, Wright found the strength and motivation to participate in the construction of this piece through spending time with Van Aerschot, sharing stories about fear and the ways it manifests itself in our lives.
Buhagiar initiates the performance, telling her audience that “death needs to be died right”. But this is not a show about death. This is a series of stories and an assemblage of experiments that allow us to see that though we have no control of death, or the unfortunate circumstances that we are often faced with, our mentalities towards said circumstances hold the utmost power – more than we could ever imagine. Whether we are hearing stories about the recuperation of drowned ants, a young man getting his leg chopped off, or a man preventing himself from freezing to death, we learn the same message. Life is less about what happens to you and more about the way you react to the happenings. Fear can be crippling, but only if you let it.
While Van Aerschot’s stories are inspirational and stimulating, there is something theatrically absent. we are not afraid of the dark is more of a presentation than a performance. You are never fully immersed in the world of the play. You sit there, fully conscious of yourself and everyone around you for the entire 70 minutes. And perhaps that’s precisely the point. We are forced to think about fear, the ways we let it affect us and how our minds have the power to transform our lives for better or for worse. That decision is ours.
we are not afraid of the dark runs until May 18 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. W.). For more information, visit theatrecentre.org. Tickets are $30 ($25 for artsworkers, seniors and students) and can be purchased at ticketwise.ca or 416-538-0988.
photo credit: Jim Miller