Back at Toronto Fringe early last night to catch the closing performance of Soulo at the Robert Gill Theatre.
Conceived and directed by Tracey Erin Smith (doing double duty this Fringe with her own show Snug Harbor), and inspired by Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign, Soulo features three solo performances – all developed at Smith’s SoulOTheatre workshops, where participants learn to mine their own lives to create a theatre piece.
The actors burst onto the stage, setting up streams of colourful fabric and prop pieces – all from a pre-set trunk – with flourish and spectacle. This is the circus of souls. Saucy and sexy Mistress of Ceremonies/Lion Tamer (McKenzie Scott), who is reminiscent of Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, welcomes the audience and introduces each act with love and humour: Terrance Bryant, Marco Bernardi and DJ Edwards. The three male actors play themselves, using their real names. This is a presentation of their souls’ journeys, after all.
Bryant tells of his coming of age as a young gay man in 1960s small town Ontario, where he went undercover in high school to become the popular guy – all the while feeling alone and ugly inside – losing many among chosen family in Toronto to AIDS in the 80s, and later coming to accept and forgive his birth family. Bernardi’s experience was that of a first generation son of Italian immigrant parents, growing up in Welland – struggling to be himself and be heard, and taking solace in music. He hopes to work in social services some day, serving the LGBT community with support and respect – and provide the listening ear that everyone needs and deserves. Edwards, who explodes onto the stage as the fabulous drag queen Vicki Lix, hails from Saskatchewan and shares the genesis of his two alter egos: Vicki and Jack, removing his Vicki costume to change into cut-offs and tank top as he tells his story. Torn out of the closet and hurled into the darkest corners, Edwards was saved by Vicki and Jack (a hunky, deep-voiced dude of few words), finding a way to face the harshness of the world and keep the dark at bay. What all three pieces have in common is that each is a magical, funny, poignant and joyful celebration of life.
Soulo closed last night – and to a full house – but if there’s ever a remount, go see this. In the meantime, check out SoulOTheatre at: www.soulo.ca