Presented by Toronto Fringe at the 2021 Virtual Fringe Festival, Empty is playing as part of the live Primetime series. The script by Natalie Axon was the winner of the 2021 Digital 24 Hour Playwriting Contest and was performed live on Zoom. The contest specified that the play contains four elements: a missed phone call, a forgotten cup of coffee, a hidden garden, and a missed delivery.
Margo lives with her partner Emma and young daughter Pearl. At first, the family seems normal and happy. The moms laugh at their daughter’s probing questions, like “what does patriarchy mean?” But normal family life is quickly disrupted as Margo begins to get confused, losing track of people and of time.
Emma says it’s work stress and encourages Margo to relax. But Pearl is more concerned, dubbing Margo “empty” during these episodes. When Margo surfaces back into real life, Pearl tells her she was empty.
Margo navigates her lapses in time the best she can while trying to process what is happening to her. Axan’s script moulds Margo as an empathetic character and I was fully immersed in the production as I too wondered if Margo would be OK.
I loved that LGBTQ+ and feminism were made part of this production naturally. They were not the impetus or plot, simply a part of Margo, Emma, and Pearl’s world. Margo’s passion for strong women of history like Gloria Steinem came up in happy moments of the production. It’s the happy moments, layered in with the sad, that help create a connection between audience and play, even in the virtual space.
Watching theatre on Zoom is an adjustment for most, but Empty lent itself wonderfully well to this medium. Characters pop on and off the Zoom screen, mirroring Margo’s experience of time and space. Margo is frequently called into the present by the abrupt appearance of a character. The audience experiences this unnerving arrival as an actor appears suddenly on screen and begins talking loudly into the camera.
The unseen narrator sets each scene and the actors command the “stage” so well that I forgot they were simply standing in front of white backgrounds. Small details like Margo’s incessantly ringing phone add tension to the production. By the end of the play, all the loose ends are tied. My guest and I both admired how organically the play unfolds to reveal the answers.
Despite the constraints of virtual theatre, Empty is an excellent play that manages to fit all the pieces together into a poignant and well-rounded production.
- Empty played live as part of the Primetime series at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival on July 27, 2021.
- 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.
Photo provided by the company.