Review: Monomyths – Stage 1 (FADO Performance Art Centre)

Photo of Ursula Johnson and Cheryl L'Hirondelle in Monomyths, stage 1Audio-based endurance performance plays at the FADO Performance Art Centre in Toronto

Monomyths is an ambitious, experimental, and multi-part event. Part 1 (of 3), consisting of of 5 stages, is happening from February 3rd – 7th at The Theatre Centre as part of the Progress Festival. It endeavours to be a sort of feminist re-imagining and disruption of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” a seminal work that’s influenced and shaped the myth of the archetypal hero. With regards to Part 1, Stage 1, which I saw last night, I have good news and bad news.

I’ll start with the bad news: unless you were at The Theatre Centre last night, you won’t get to witness what I did. So, as far as bad news goes, it could be worse, but I am very sorry you won’t get to experience it.

Now for the good news! The stages (3 currently remain) can be enjoyed as stand-alone performances. Together, however, they form a greater journey, and a richer story-telling experience. While I wouldn’t call what we (my companion Violet and I) saw last night “theatre” in the strict sense of the word, we both found it pretty incredible.

Stage 1: The Ordinary World / Call to Adventure, was an audio-based endurance performance. When we arrived, Ursula Johnson and Cheryl L’Hirondelle were already well into their second hour of performing. They were standing, at microphones, singing and drumming and laughing for over three hours! Even after sitting on relatively comfortable chairs for over an hour, we were getting stiff.

I definitely regret not being there for the entire performance. I feel that sharing the entire process with them would have deepened the intensity for us as the audience, and given us a chance to project some energy onto them.

In the very special and beautiful Q&A that followed, Ursula Johnson, collaborating with Cheryl L’Hirondelle, explained the music, and the process by which it came about.

Nikamon Ochi Askiy (Ke’tapekiaq Ma’qimikew): The Land Singsis offered as an apology to the land upon which we stand: stolen, abused, and rendered almost unrecognizable by humans, and as the site of the displacement of countless First Nations peoples and their voices.

Johnson explained how she literally mapped out the music. Using a topographical map, she covered the region of Georgina Island (an Ojibwe reserve about an hour north of Toronto) to The Theatre Centre. Along with songwriter Cheryl L’Hirondelle, she used the hills, valley, peaks, and depths of the land to sing the earth. I was blown away by this process.

The rest of the Q&A/performance, facilitated by Maria Hupfield and translated by Rosary Spence, was filled with wonderful interactions, questions,  and conversations about reconciliation and brackets. I felt so privileged just to be witnessing it. Afterwards, Violet remarked, “Well! THAT was awesome!”

I’m planning on catching Stage 3 of Monomyths Friday night (not as a reviewer), and if truly radical, divergent performances are your thing, I hope to see you there.


    • Monomyths is playing until February 7 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. West)
    • See website for showtimes
    • Ticket prices are PWYC and are available online, or through the box office at 416-538-0988
    • Seating is limited, and reservations are recommended

Photo of Ursula Johnson and Cheryl L’Hirondelle in Monomyths, Part 1, Stage 1 provided by company.