Actor/playwright Heather Allin’s one-woman fable Just Lift Your Feet had its Toronto Fringe Festival opening at the Robert Gill Theatre last night, playing in a late-night time slot to a small but engaged audience.
Directed by Dennis Hayes, Just Lift Your Feet has its origins in a SoulOTheatre solo show workshop intensive with Tracey Erin Smith. Drawing on archetypal characters, spiritualism and personal storytelling, the play examines fear, creativity and being true to oneself.
Lost and struggling to find her voice, Morgan’s trek to the forest in an attempt to regain her creative mojo becomes an unexpected hero’s journey – one in which the shadow self (the goddess Morgaine) and wise self (the Doe) battle for her allegiance. As Morgan tends to the injured doe, protecting her from Morgaine even as she protects her creativity from the bitch goddess, she finds strength in fragility.
Allin does a lovely job of using specific physical and vocal characteristics to draw and differentiate each character – and the one-person sword versus dagger fight between Morgaine and Morgan is masterfully choreographed and executed. The set, props and sound transport us to a world of magic realism: the music wondrous and twinkling, the wood and rock of the forest with its luminous birch trees and blue/black fabric river, the warrior’s breastplate, sword and dagger – and the red fabric that represents the severely injured animal.
The performance was followed by a brief talkback Q&A session, where Allin, Hayes and the audience discussed character delineation, and the process of finding and writing the story. The possibility of a version with multiple actors came up too, but one audience member noted how the piece is especially powerful as a one-woman show. I have to agree with the latter assessment – the play’s themes of personal journey, and the inner struggle against fear and striving to find a true voice, are well-suited to a one-person format.
Universal in its depiction of the longing to find one’s place – one’s self – in the world, Just Lift Your Feet is a brave and vulnerable piece of storytelling that touches, teaches and tickles.
Just Lift Your Feet runs at the Robert Gill Theatre until Saturday, July 13. Click here for complete show date/time details.