Praxis Theatre, Toronto. Photo of Tommy Taylor. Photograpyher unknown. Found in the Charlebois Post.
The 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto resulted in everything from a number of international financial agreements (will they actually be realized?) to astronomical costs for Canadian taxpayers (remember the much-pilloried artificial lake?). It also produced riots and, in the case of Tommy Taylor and many others, a mass arrest and detainment for having done nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Taylor, a Toronto-based actor and writer, posted his story – which included being arrested after he, his girlfriend and a companion went to check out the demonstrations and wound up caged with 40 others for almost 24 hours with minimal water, food or even bathroom facilities – on Facebook. The story went viral, he turned it into a staged piece of storytelling, and it’s made its way across the country including a short run at Arts Court Theatre Nov. 20-23.
His story makes the blood boil and provokes fear that our civil liberties are fewer than we like to think. The arrested, including a couple who had the misfortune to emerge from a restaurant just as the police cordoned off that area of Toronto and start rounding up everyone in their net, were treated horrendously. Taylor at one point fainted from dehydration, and a 16-year-old was unable to contact his presumably very worried parents.
At one point in Taylor’s show (it’s also known as “A G20 Romp”), 26 volunteers from the community where the show is taking place rise from the audience and serve as fellow detainees. Their dejected and disbelieving stances make clear that the entire debacle was outside most Canadians’ normal experience (although, as Taylor points out, First Nations people have endured this kind of treatment on a regular basis).
Despite the show’s important content and the accolades Taylor’s piece has won, You Should Have Stayed Home is less than perfect. Taylor is a good storyteller, but his funny bits aren’t really very funny (they got few laughs on opening night at Arts Court), he regularly breaks the show’s momentum by taking too long to cue supporting images on his laptop, and he has a disconcerting habit of wiping perspiration from his brow, a here-and-now action that, like his frowns when cuing those images, breaks the spell of storytelling.
In short, You Should Have Stayed Home works as a story but as theatre, not so much.