The Toronto Fringe Festival website indicates that every performance of The ADHD Project by Squirrel Suit Productions is a relaxed performance. Technically what that means is that the audience can come and go during the show if they need to, the house lights stay on, and there are no loud sound cues. But more than that, the whole thing feels immediately relaxed and welcoming from the moment writer/performer Carlyn Rhamey walks on stage.
Before the ‘official’ show started, she casually talked to us about her funky socks while she put on shoes, how she wears unmatched socks because they are like ice cream to her. She can’t decide on a flavour, so she likes a scoop of each. It already feels like I’m just hanging out with a friend.
As someone with ADHD, who is surrounded by people with ADHD – literally everyone in my family, my mum, my kids, their dad, I basically just live in ADHD world – it makes sense that a show about someone’s personal journey with ADHD would have a lot for me to relate to. But Rhamey is such a dynamic and charismatic storyteller that you don’t have to have had any exposure to ADHD to enjoy watching her.
The show incorporates stories of Rhamey’s past and present to give the audience a glimpse into what it is like living with ADHD. Along with the stories, she uses projections of old drawings, report cards and videos to give us a view into her past. Together it paints a vivid picture.
There was one moment, Rhamey taking an exam as an adult, that was such an incredible moment of “Yes! That’s what it is like!” for me as I watched. A couple things contributed to that feeling. Her performance was excellent, she was in the moment, it felt real. But also, she was explaining a side of ADHD that I think a lot of people don’t understand, the heightened awareness and sensations. It was almost like a description of why the distraction happens.
Jon Paterson’s direction brings Rhamey’s performance into focus. I get the sense it has helped to minimize the potential distractions. In something like this there would be the temptation of adding too much extra stuff. This strikes a delicate balance with the props and projections and straightforward storytelling and feels like it’s in just the right place.
What I love aboutThe ADHD Project is that it doesn’t dwell on the challenges, it also points out the strengths in ADHD. I remember being asked once – if someone could magically take away my ADHD, but it meant taking away all the good things that came with it as well as the frustrating stuff – would I do it. I had to think long and hard, but ultimately, I decided no. I value the positives too much. And that’s a message so often missing from the ADHD narrative.
A show like this is great for neurodivergent people like me because they ‘feel seen’ and can gain a sense of solidarity. But it’s also great for neurotypical people because it can help them understand what it might be like for their neurodivergent friends and family.
I really recommend checking this show out. Get your tickets early though, this was the first show, and it was sold out. This one’s going to be tough to get into.
- The ADHD Project plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 8:15 pm
- Friday July 5th, 4:45 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 6:45 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 9:45 pm
- Monday July 8th, 2:00 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 10:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 3:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 8:00 pm
Photo of Carlyn Rhamey by Brian Grunté Art by Gilian Thomas Graphic Design by Jon Paterson