Theatre Review: Breakfast

This entry is cross-posted with blogTO. Creating a new play isn't easy, especially when you eschew more mainstream conventions of story and character. Like, say, if you were to take an utterly mundane daily activity and explode it into an extraordinary moment of self discovery.

Such is the challenge of the Independent Aunties/ Theatre Centre co-pro Breakfast. Billed as a 'production in progress', it's not always a complete success as a piece of theatre. But it is an interesting and brave show, well worth checking out for those who like to walk a bit off the beaten theatrical path.

Breakfast charts the course of a remarkable, well, breakfast. A women, as shut up in herself as she is in her apartment, is living a kind of life-on-pause. But with the help of the world's greatest, most interactive and slightly voyeuristic self-help tape, she sets off on a profound personal transformation. This is emotional honesty in its purest form. The woman walks a frightening, uncomfortable and occasionally violent road to discovery, all of which is realized on stage with impressive conviction by the talented cast.

Breakfast employs some innovative performance choices. Only one of the three performers- the charming Karin Randoja- is a 'character' in the traditional sense. The other two act as offstage voices, only occasionally entering the playing space. As the voice of the tape, Evalyn Parry provides an engaging and sonorous narrator, variously driving and contextualizing the action. Anna Chatterton is a haunting presence in the theatre, and her vocalized sex scene is of Harry-Met-Sally calibre. Maybe even more so.

There's also some nifty stagecraft on display in Breakfast. From Julie Fox's breakaway set to the wireless sound rig, the technical elements of the show do a nice job of underscoring the play's themes of transformation. The sound design of Richard Windeyer deserves special mention. Doing real-time voice effects can easily become distracting, but Windeyer keeps the effects understated, accentuating the emotional dynamics of the story.

As the 'production in progress' tagline suggests, Breakfast feels a little incomplete, and this robs the show of some theatrical weight. I had a good sense of what the ensemble was trying to say, but they ultimately failed to drive the message home. The show doesn't really have an ending in its present form, and I left feeling oddly unfulfilled. I won't presume to suggest an ending to the performers/creators. I just hope the next version of Breakfast finds a concluding moment worthy of an otherwise inventive and engaging production.

Breakfast continues at the Theatre Centre until June 1st. For tickets and information, call 416 538 0988.