Review: besidemyselfworld (Tones Of Voice).

besidemyselfworld, is ‘a multi-disciplinary solo piece based on the autobiographical writings of the German autistic mute teenager, Birger Sellin New collective, Tones of Voice have adapted this piece from Sellin’s book Ich will kein Inmich mehr sein (i dont want to be inside me anymore).

Entering into the Wychwood Barn I waited with the rest of the audience, assuming I would be ushered into a theatre space, but actually a man enters into the walkway pushing cardboard boxes on a trolley.  We know to follow him as he tapes an arrow on the ground and we learn more about his character as he eventually guides us into a room where he unpacks his boxes and the show really begins.

It is incredible to me that through the use of his body and some vocal sounds the actor Sebastian Schäfer, for me became Sellin, although I am not sure if this was the intention. He is billed as the narrator/technician but he rather embodies the physicality of someone with autism and captures perfectly this sense of feeling trapped inside one’s head.

The mixed media element provided by Katie Kehoe and Peter O’Neill adds another dimension to the piece. With the simple background of cardboard boxes the use of imagery is powerful and poetic as it falls in and out of sync with what the voice over is trying to articulate.

I must admit that sometimes I got captivated by the images and my mind started wandering and I would miss chunks of the narration but the overall feeling for me was like riding on waves, up and down with the despair and hope that Sellin feels. His desire to talk, as he can only communicate by typing his words, was profound and his dreams to help find a cure for autism made me do more thorough research the next day.

The staging and lighting is extremely effective in this piece, the light coming from a few well-placed floor lamps, a headlamp or the projection creates a very intimate feeling to the evening. It was as if we were in the lounge of this man’s house as he tried to articulate what he was going through as a man with autism.

I loved the use of the cardboard boxes, especially when they became a fort for Schäfer. His understated performance was exactly what the piece needed as he is secondary to the sounds and images that are presented on stage. Schäfer is more like our tour guide taking us on a journey into this man’s brain.

I was moved by this piece and I like the fact that Mark Cassidy of Threshold Theatre and Darren Copeland of New Adventures in Sound Art have really created a piece of work that is exactly in line with their mandate, ‘to present and develop stage and media works which merge sound and spoken word in innovative ways’, I look forward to seeing what they do next.


  • besidemyselfworld presented by Tones of Voice and the Goethe Institute Toronto
  • Plays at The Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street, Toronto. (Meet in Barn 2 Covered Street)
  • Dates: September 6 to September 11, 2011. Tue-Sat @ 8 PM and Sun @ 2 PM
  • Tickets: Regular $10, Students $5, available only at the door
  • NOTE: September 9th performance in German

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Photo Credit: Mark Cassidy
Photo subject: Sebastian Schäfer