Where to even begin in describing Passing Through Theatre’s show Beginagame, part of the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival? I just returned from seeing this strange, funny, glittery show and I’m still feeling a bit confused.
Beginagame is a journey into the subconscious mind of Misha (played by Erin Morgan), a young woman who — as we eventually come to learn — is plagued by guilt, repressed traumatic memories, and a generous dose of regret.
The show opens with Misha reading newspaper headlines vis a vis an off-stage voice. Her subconscious, a darkly humorous character (played by Lily Sutherland), emerges from behind her after one specific headline and literally grabs ahold of her. She’s immediately terrifying and funny.
Cue the contemporary dance routine, with Misha making reference to her love of dance repeatedly. I’m still not sure what this sequence had to do with the ultimate theme of the show, and I wonder if the precious time used dancing could have been better spent developing Misha’s character, or setting up even a small amount of her backstory. Contemporary dance isn’t really my thing, so it’s possible the point was simply lost on me, but this particular sequence seemed to stand alone compared to the others.
After this initial confusion, the play becomes a bit more cohesive. We understand that Misha is terrified of, and eventually angry with, her subconscious, but feels compelled to play a “game” with her. The gameshow-like question and answer game is lively, funny, and well done. I’m also a fan of audience participation, which it has.
Sutherland really shines as Misha’s subconscious/gameshow host here. Her consistent, strong, and thoroughly creepy performance — as well as her costume — was the highlight for me. Morgan’s Misha at times felt way over the top and overly dramatic.
Eventually, we get to the heart of the matter: Misha must admit a truth about a traumatic childhood event. There is a twist, previously hinted at, and — while I’m happy the subject is raised — I’m still not sure why it’s there. I feel like divulging it would be revealing too much. Misha, as well as the audience, are left with an important message: speak the truth, and use your privileges for good. At least, I think so.
There are elements of this show which I loved — Sutherland’s performance, the game-show version of one’s subconscious, the glittery sign, and the important issue revealed near the end. I’m happy that awareness is being raised and that it’s being spoken about. There were some great laughs, too.
Mostly, however, I left feeling confused about what I’d just seen, and am still trying to understand how the various elements go together.
If you like obscure, dance-heavy scenes and don’t mind a little overdramatics, or if you enjoy well-timed physical performers who play well with each other’s bodies and space, as well as references to current Canadian (more specifically colonial) issues, you may enjoy Beginagame. Otherwise, you may want to skip this one. I still have very mixed feelings about it.
- Beginagame is playing until July 12 at Tarragon Theatre Extraspace (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment
July 08 at 01:45 PM
July 09 at 03:30 PM
July 10 at 11:30 PM
July 12 at 07:30 PM
Photo of Lily Sutherland provided by company