Preview: HOT 5 (Upside Downside Theatre)

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Upside Downside Theatre, an interdisciplinary theatre company based in Toronto, is creating an ambitious site-specific, immersive theatre and circus piece called HOT 5, set to open this weekend.

We asked the show’s co-creator and company creative director Zoey Gould a few questions about the upcoming show:

Can you briefly describe your show and tell us about some of the inspirations that lead you to develop this show?

A few years ago, my friend Marvin removed his living room ceiling to install an aerial circus rig. I thought “wow– what a great space to do a show!” I wanted to integrate the show with the space in a meaningful way, so I decided to base the show on Marvin’s theory of emotions, which attempts to answer the question: where do emotions come from?

When I was 17, my perception of theatre completely changed when I saw De La Guarda perform an immersive show in London’s Roundhouse Theatre. Then I was blown away by DV8 Physical Theatre’s documentary-style format in To be Straight with You. Other inspirations have included “Sleep No More,” “Brantwood,” and Montreal’s Les 7 Doigts de la Main.

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What can the audience expect?

Expect to get involved with the performance, whether it’s by peeking through the windows into Marvin’s house, or by interacting with the actors. Expect thought-provoking questions about the mind and our perception of reality, and how that relates to the mysteries of the universe. You can also expect some circus.

Can you tell us about a unique challenge you faced in creating a piece of immersive theatre?

Em bookI come from a street-performing background and have worked in theatre, but I had never produced an immersive piece on this scale. Luckily, I have a lot of experience controlling crowds and interacting with audiences in improvisational settings. ‘HOT 5‘ is like four shows in one, so it’s essential that the performers take responsibility for many of the logistical elements, such as timing their sections and providing cues for other performers. It’s much more challenging than producing a stage show with a single focal point.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you have you learned in the process of creating this show?

In circus, we often are working with an apparatus, but in this show, the audience is our apparatus. It’s difficult to predict how people will move throughout the space until you’re in front of an audience. Wherever possible, we’ve been inviting friends and other artists to attend our dress rehearsals. I had to teach our actors to ground themselves in their interactions, and think about having a conversation rather than a stage performance. This puts the audience at ease and breaks that fourth wall.

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What are you hoping people will take away from your show?

I hope that we can leave people thinking about some of life’s mysteries- both mysteries of the mind and the universe. Uncertainty and chaos predate life, and we have evolved to develop strategies to cope. If we ask questions about the mind, they open us up to larger questions. We don’t have the answers, but we do have some good questions.


  • HOT 5 by Scotty Dont and Zoey Gould is playing from September 11-13, 2015 at 8:00PM at a site-specific location on Wells Hill Avenue, Toronto
  • Tickets, $22 – 30, are available online at,Reduced rate of $22 available for seniors, full time students, and the underemployed

Photos of Mike Estes, Emily Halliwell-Macdonald, Aude Laverne  and Barrett Morrison provided by the company