TCDS’ Polaroid Stories showed from November 23rd to November 26th at the George Ignatieff Theatre. It was written by Naomi Iizuka and directed by Melissa Anne Fearon. Promoted as an adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Polaroid Stories replaces Ovid’s mythological world with the harsh world of street youth. Sex workers, drug dealers, and the homeless each tell their stories in a series of interwoven vignettes exploring their fears, desires, and hopes.
Set designer, Shay Santaiti, created a three-piece set consisting of a yellow ladder, a green bench, and a chain-link cage, placed between a pair of graffiti-covered flats. Visually, It was a simple set, but it had a tremendous impact on the playing space. Actors like to build space; to create zones, levels, and distance. Recall—if you were fortunate enough to see it—the white block set of What She Said at last year’s drama festival, and the dynamic, fluid use of space it allowed. The set of Polaroid Stories, by contrast, was a masterfully static set, full of restricted movement and the tension of not being able to go anywhere. A ladder only lets you go up, and only for a few steps until you are stuck at the top with nowhere to go. A bench is a stationary thing that invites you to sit down and maybe sleep the night there. And a cage is a cage. It was the sort of set where you can’t really go anywhere—only move around and about on the same old tracks. Of course, this mirrors the immobility of the show’s characters perfectly. With no hope of escape, they are left to repeat the same motions day after day.
This feeling of entrapment was a refreshing approach to the non-linear vignette writing style of Polaroid Stories. Instead of feeling like I was watching a laundry list of disparate, vaguely disconcerting scenes, I felt like the actors—even when they left the stage—were always present, unable to really leave the theatre. It helped that most of their entrances and exits were through the aisles to the back row of the house, so that they never received the cleansing theatrical effect of disappearing behind curtains. The scenes of Polaroid Stories were unified not by a central plot, but by the sheer presence of the characters, the imprint of their stories on the back of my mind, and the feeling that they were still there, unable to leave, trapped somewhere in the theatre with us. I felt that I couldn’t watch the show scene by scene, that I had to hold all the stories in my head, piled one atop another, at the same time.
It was a good show, and an important one. In thought and execution, Polaroid Stories left little to be desired, especially with its pretty ending collage (although polaroid photos seem so much of a phenomenon of financial and personal security that, if you think about, they’re a little out of place). The overall impact of the show feels great enough that it seems a little basic to praise the individual efforts of any cast or crew. I will say, however, that Louis-Alexandre Boulet and Katarina Prystay’s performances as the SKINHEADboy and SKINHEADgirl were chilling.
With the UofT Drama Festival around the corner, I’m excited to see how Polaroid Stories will influence this year’s student productions, which also tend towards issue-driven, youth-focused stories.