Review: Is My Microphone On? (Canadian Stage)

High Park Amphitheatre

Before you vote on September 20th – you are planning to vote, right? – you need to see the Canadian Stage production of Is My Microphone On? It is part of their Dream in High Park summer programming at the High Park Amphitheatre.

In his newest play, Jordan Tannahill holds us to account for climate change. For the choices we’ve made and the future we’re leaving our children.

In case you’re thinking, “I don’t know, that sounds kind of heavy for a late summer evening entertainment,” trust me, it’s terrific theatre. Invigorating, challenging, entertaining – an evening well spent.

Is My Microphone On? is performed by a chorus of 17 talented kids ranging in age from 12 to 17: Remi Ajao-Russell, Hiyab Araya, Jack Bakshi, Chloe Cha, Felix Chew, Nia Downey, Sidonie Fleck, Oscar Gorbet, Saraphina Knights, Iris MacNada, Iylah Mohammed, Amaza Payne, Sanora Souphommanychanh, Alykhan Sunderji, Catherine Thorne, Sophia Wang, and Skyler Xiang.

They are all, without exception, wonderful. Each of them delivering their lines perfectly on cue, which is key to making the play work.

When I think of a chorus, I tend to think of a group of singers or dancers who perform in unison. When I think of a Greek chorus, I think of a group that speaks in unison. Although these performers are billed as a chorus, they speak one at a time. Each person delivering a word or phrase that makes a sentence.

Imagine that you have 17 children and that they have something they want to tell you. They start – sometimes one at a time, sometimes two at a time, sometimes all of them at once. Never interrupting each other, no stumbling over words. They switch from person to person in the middle of a sentence, making perfect sense, making their point.

This is the remarkable result director Erin Brubacher has achieved.

Her staging works perfectly, especially for these pandemic times. The cast circles the outside of the audience, socially distanced. Some have instruments – drums, percussion, guitars, a violin – which they use to illustrate things like the number of trees being cut or the ice being lost from the polar cap.

Veda Hille’s original score of the piece is performed by a keyboard player on the stage.

I loved Kaitlin Hickey’s lighting, particularly when it dimmed to twilight as we listened to the sounds of nature around us. It combined with Debashis Sinha’s magical sound design to make me believe that the sound of hundreds of frogs in early September was real.

Sherri Hay’s set includes two large bags, maybe canvas, taller than a person, suspended from openings on the two walls of the stage. One is empty. One is filled with sand that runs out the bottom is a slow, steady stream. They illustrate the progress of climate change perfectly.

I said that you need to see this before you vote. These kids are scared. They’re angry and confrontational. They want change, but they’re still kids. They aren’t old enough to vote yet. They ask their parents to think about who they vote for – to make changes with them so they can have a future.

They need their parents to change. They love their parents. They ask their parents to come together with them in love to create a livable future. We should all listen to their plea.

I highly recommend seeing Is My Microphone On? Climate change shouldn’t be political, but it is. Given that, this is what political theatre should be; brilliantly written, directed, and acted. Describing the problem and offering hope for the future.


Photo of the cast by Elana Emer