Dance of Torn Papers (Nowadays Theatre) 2021 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Aida Keykhaii and Maryam Mahdavi in Mother, Dance of Torn Papers. Photo by Mahsa Ershadifar.

Dance of Torn Papers, produced by Nowadays Theatre, is a 360˚ experience of two short works by playwright and director Mohammad Yaghoubi, playing on-demand at the virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival. The double bill is a combined 30 minutes, with two different video options of watching in either English or Farsi, or with subtitles of each language for either video.

The 360˚ VR experience gives audiences the ability to be in the room, to choose where they want to look with the direction of the mouse, making you intimately a part of the experience. Past virtual reality shows I’ve seen leave the camera in one spot, but in this work, the actors move the camera with them to different places in the room, creating an even more lifelike ambience to the performance.

This is especially true for the first piece titled Birthday Present. It begins with nudity (content warning) and follows the conversation between a sex worker and client (unbeknownst to him, as he was gifted this encounter for his birthday but was not told until after). The young man sounds off on his ideas about sex workers regarding their public disrespect and disregard, while also professing his opposing wishes for her to stay and be with him. The sex worker asserts that she has heard it all before and must leave for her next client. Although mainly from the point of view of the young man (although her silence says plenty), the encounter is personal and engaging.

The second piece, Mother, follows a mother and daughter and their sorrowful conversations when one is on death’s door. This piece pays homage to the playwright’s wife, who he has watched battle cancer in the past year. Mother is especially a heartbreaking and despairing conversation in the Covid era when many have to say goodbye to family members from afar. A conversation that you hope never to have. 

The drastically different pieces and topics within this double bill are intriguing and intimate. Although the use of VR might not have been needed for the second work, as it takes place mainly with both performers sitting on a bed, it was perfectly suited to the collusive nature of the first piece. Both these pieces are a reimagining for a digital space, from its award-winning play of the same name. The 360˚ experience of these two works is something to check out, as is this playwright, Mohammad Yaghoubi, for bringing private conversations to the (digital – for now) stage.


  • Dance of Torn Papers is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
  • Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go,  with the suggested price of $13 per show.
  • Memberships can be purchased here.  View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
  • Accessibility notes:
    • On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
    • Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
  • Content warnings: Not recommended for persons under 18 years of age. Sexual Content, Nudity and Mature Language.

Photo of Aida Keykhaii and Maryam Mahdavi. Photo by Mahsa Ershadifar.