Review: Final Savage Land (Sore For Punching You)

Liberate your love for theatre with Final Savage Land, playing at Toronto’s Oz Studios

You know when you go to a show that you enjoy so much that it leaves you speechless? If you don’t then you might want to check out Final Savage Land presented by Sore For Punching You (Alison Cummings) at Oz Studios. These are my favourite, yet most challenging types of reviews to write: the ones for shows that I enjoyed so much that I don’t know what to say. I will do my best though to describe what I witnessed on Thursday night.

Oz Studios is the kind of space that you walk by far too many times without actually ever glancing over to see what is happening inside. It is small, understated and hidden amongst a plethora of similar storefronts along the southern part of Ossington Avenue. All of that changes though when a man (Luke Garwood) and a woman (Linnea Swan) are standing in the front window, framed by bright red curtains, and peering into a giant clear bowl filled with water. I was not even tempted to enter for I was too intrigued by my viewpoint from outside. It was icy cold though so I pulled myself away and stepped through the door.

It feels almost taboo to speak of what lay behind the red curtain. The space held a mystical quality. Guests spoke in whispers to one another as they collected small camp chairs and were invited to pick a vantage point anywhere in the room. But be warned, depending where you pick, you may be directly in the path of a performer.

As time neared 8pm the lights dimmed, the whispers died down and slowly, and almost as if by magic, the red curtains lifted open to reveal Garwood, framed by the lights of Ossington Avenue. Garwood and Swan, accompanied by a haunting yet childlike score by Lyon Smith, emerged from the window and weaved a twisting path back and forth around the narrow room. I don’t know if it was my proximity to the performers, the eeriness of the music or the intensity of Garwood and Swans’ gazes, but I could not seem to take my eyes off of them. I could feel myself getting goose bumps and my chest caving in just from the intensity in the room.

And then everything exploded.

Yes, I realize the dramatic tone to that statement, but in the moment, that’s truly how things felt. The trance was broken as unexpectedly as I had entered into it and now I could not help but smile. I remember thinking to myself “Yes! This is what I like to see!”

The rest of the hour flew by in an instant.  Flash backs of movements and moments have been running through my head ever since. I was never quite sure what was going to happen but I was excited to get to be there for it.

Now I know I am raving about this show but I would like to acknowledge that my taste in work favours a specific style. I like work in unusual spaces (yet with a reason for being there). I like work that makes me feel uneasy and makes me question my own beliefs and customs both as a human being and as an artist. I like work that pulls inspiration from multiple sources or art forms and as a result is hard to define or classify as one specific thing. It is for these reasons, and many more, that I am such a fan of Final Savage Land.

I could tell you about choreographer Alison Cumming’s inspirations, I could explain my interpretation of the themes, I could even give you a play by play of exactly how the story unfolded, but what’s the fun in that? I’d rather urge you to go sit in Oz Studios for an hour in the next few weeks and witness it for yourself. Whether site specific, movement driven work is ‘your thing’ or not, I encourage you to go. You will be one of the lucky few that get to escape into the twisted fairy tale that is Final Savage Land. There are only a few dozen tickets available per performance, so act fast!

And if none of those reasons convince you, then I leave you with the quote at the top of Cumming’s program as a final attempt to get you to buy a ticket: “We will find the key to our liberation only when we accept that what we once did to survive is now destroying us.” – Laura van Dernoot Lipsky

Liberate yourself, go see Final Savage Land.


  • Final Savage Land is playing January 23 – February 2, 2013 at Oz Studios, 134 Ossington Avenue
  • Shows run every evening, except Monday, at 8pm
  • Tickets are $20
  • Tickets are available online or can be reserved by calling 416-504-6429 ext 24