Review: Flooded (North America)

Mind-boggling physical theatre, Flooded sets sail on the Pirate Life in Toronto

My adventure into exploring Flooded, directed by Ara Glenn Johanson, started with my desire to explore the unknown. Reading the press release for the show, I knew it would take place on board The Pirate Life ship, that it involved highly physical theatre presented in a non-narrative style, and that there was something about the pelvis, which I perceived to mean this show would be raunchy. I learned just enough to find this production wacky, which was all I needed to want to explore further, but I still had no idea what I was walking into. I also figured that at the very least, I would get to hang out on a boat for an hour.

As my theatre partner Vance and I boarded the Pirate Life, we noticed that our seats were from the steps of the ship itself. Which is fine, but something to be mindful of. We regretted not bringing our own water, as it was a scorcher of a day. It is important to note that Flooded takes place on the Pirate Life as it sails around the Toronto Islands for an hour — showing up on time is crucial, or you literally will miss the boat, and you must be prepared for the weather. The show plays on during light rain, but will be cancelled if weather conditions are particularly bad, so bring an umbrella.

When the ship set sail and the performance commenced, what we ended up seeing was something that neither of us ever expected. It’s actually not easy to explain. There is dialogue among the four actors — Hayden Finkelshtain, Melanie Leon, Nicole Wilson, and Duncan Rowe — but it’s all, literally, gibberish. From the gibberish and the bizarre and rather disjointed scenes that take place, scenes that involve everything from sputtering lines while spewing water, to animalistic movement pieces of hissing serpents, crawling over each other in a tangled mass of limbs, and a message in a bottle…written in gibberish, the audience is left to piece together their own story.

Which is what I found myself struggling with while trying to connect what I watched to being set on a pirate ship. Are they castaways on board a strange ship encountering wild animals and criminals along the way? I mean, that’s what I interpreted.

Vance, who studied acting far more extensively than I have, saw a final year acting workshop on movement, contact, improvisation, and linguistics.

We both agreed that the sheer physicality in the movement, in the commitment to the gibberish and the dedication to the narrative that they were aware of, was superb. Leon and Rowe captured my attention in particular, as their strength in acrobatics and dance shone in their performance.

And I certainly can’t fault the actors for their performances, which were great. Johanson has put together a rather visually intriguing yet mind boggling piece of performance art, but unfortunately, for us, Flooded just didn’t gel together.

I did enjoy sailing on Pirate Life, though. It was a beautiful day, a breeze had finally picked up, and there was enough movement in the water to be pleasant and not uncomfortable. So that was nice.


  • Flooded is playing until July 25 2017 at the Pirate Life Boat docked at 333 Lakeshore Ave East.
  • Performances are at 6:30 pm sharp.
  • Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online¬†or in person with cash.
  • Audience Advisory: This performance contains minimal audience participation and depictions of implied sexuality.

Photo of (clockwise from left) Hayden Finkelshtain, Nicole Wilson, Melanie Leon, and Duncan Rowe by Ara Glenn-Johanson