James Ryan Gobuty
What do you get when you mix talented performers, a hip bar in Kensington Market and a few drinks? You get the Pressgang Storytelling Series. Much to my delight, the theme of the night was Love vs. Smut. This novel idea is the brainchild of creator and host Graham Isador, who brings together performers from the following fields: theatre, comedy, music, and occasionally, I’m told, poetry. Isador picks the theme for the month and leaves it up to the performers to decide what they’re going to say to the room filled with dapper young people drinking craft beer.
The evening is set at Handlebar in Kensington Market, a bar known for its cycling theme, good drinks and dim lighting – in other words the perfect venue for the evening. I’m particularly fond of using a bar for this sort of event, because oftentimes the crowd at the bar is just as lively, if not more so, than what’s happening on stage. This means that the performers have to kick their act into high gear if they want to maintain in the spotlight.
Isador is obviously comfortable on the stage. Like any good host, he has a feel for his audience, a connection to his performers, and the confidence that comes from running an event like this for years.
The first act Isador introduces is Glyn Bowerman, who tells the crowd of the misadventures of that one summer when he had to attend five weddings. Bowerman has a nervous confidence about him that fits his story perfectly, and his timing is dead on.
Next up is Evan, who regales us with the details of his romance with a slightly unstable young lady who had misplaced some valuable sex toys.
Sam Mullins, the third storyteller to feature, tells of a whirlwind romance that ultimately wasn’t meant to be. Though Mullins clearly knows his craft, his story lost its flow when he got distracted by the bar patrons and claimed, “Clearly I’m not used to the bar scene anymore,” a sign that even a seasoned performer can fall prey to their expectation of an enraptured audience.
Next to the stage is Willa, the first female performer of the evening, who gives the audience a crash course on how polyamorous relationships are just as silly and adorable as single partner ones.
Willa is followed by Jill Welsh who, despite being the only performer with notes, clearly didn’t need them, and was the performer who had the best energy on stage by far.
Last but not least is Faisal Butt, a stand-up comedian who plays up the humour between his man-child persona and his attempts to have a child with his girlfriend.
All in all, it was a great slate of performers from diverse backgrounds and certainly a hell of a way to spend a Saturday.
If you want to take your love for performance out of the theatre, then folks, this is the event for you. Isador has put together a great event, with a casual attitude, and what seems like a loyal following. What can I say theatre readers, I’m sold, and frankly, I can’t wait for the next one.
Pressgang Storytelling takes place at Handlebar (159 Augusta Ave.) on the first Saturday of the month with the next event TBD. Tickets are $10 at the door.