Picture this: a young teenage girl, completely naked, lights herself on fire and goes running down your friendly, quiet cul de sac. This was the bold, vivid and powerful image burned into the minds of the audience at the Storefront Theatre in Toronto.
Little Black Afro Theatre Company’s production of Philip Turkiewicz’s docudrama I Was Once on Fire explores humanity at its core, using a horrifying tragedy of a young girl's attempted suicide as its base. The story is powerful, straightforward and eye-opening.
How would we react in a moment of instant chaos? Would we help? Would we hide? Or would we ignore it and hope it goes away? In a similar style to the very popular docudrama “The Laramie Project,” I Was Once On Fire is told through a series of interviews.
Three reporters, Jesse Pollard (Callie Presnaik), Brent Bohr (Kano Wilkinson) and Marnie Williams (Anne Marsh) head to a normally quiet cul de sac where the tragedy occurred and begin to interview the neighbours who are recalling their thoughts and feelings regarding the incident. The entire sequence is witnessed by Gray Whimbrook (Molly Thomas), the young girl who was once on fire.
This show truly captures Philip Turkiewicz's mastery of words. The monologues are powerful and the imagery is brilliant. The show has a perfect mix of humour and drama, which gives it balance throughout.
The set, designed by the very talented Cassandra Brennan, is minimal yet effective. It gives the audience more of an opportunity to focus on the extremely talented performers. The show has 24 characters which are played by only eight performers, showcasing many of the actors' versatility. Special mention deservedly goes to Nicole D’Amato and Jalen Liverpool for their performances. Each of them plays five characters throughout, and their timing and delivery is phenomenal.
The wonderful thing about I Was Once on Fire is its straightforwardness and its minimality. The show is not artsy for the sake of art and that is such a refreshing thing to witness. The set, the lights, the sound and the costumes allow for the play’s beautiful writing to be heard and leave the impact that it deservedly did.
The show runs 90 minutes, which at times did feel a little drawn out. It possibly could have been done in 60 minutes with the same result, however it still worked and it still left a powerful impact which was felt throughout the audience.
I Was Once on Fire is physical, loud and phenomenal. Do yourself a favour and go and witness this remarkable piece of theatre.
I Was Once on Fire plays at the Storefront Theatre until April 26. For more information visit http://www.littleblackafro.com/.