This Stays in the Room

Allan Morgan, Alexa Devine, Rob Salvador and Manami Hara Credit: Tim Matheson
Allan Morgan, Alexa Devine, Robert Salvador and Manami Hara
Credit: Tim Matheson


At Gallery Gachet (88 East Cordova) until March 30

Posted March 23, 2014

Confession is good for the soul according to an old Scottish proverb. If that’s true, there’s a lot of ‘good’ happening at Gallery Gachet. And there’s so much – and I know, it sounds so 60s – love in the room, you can do the breaststroke in it.

That’s what happens when a group of theatre artists work together over a period of a couple of years, sharing some of their most intimate stories of shame and forgiveness. No holds barred. No sacred cows.

We see four actors – Manami Hara, Allan Morgan, Robert Salvador and Alexa Devine – and hear admissions from three others. The staging is as intimate as the stories they tell. Chairs (no two alike) are set down two sides of an ‘alley’. Large sheets of black roofing paper – like huge blackboards – are tacked up on the east and west walls behind the rows of chairs and in each of four corners is a little ‘station’ – a little table or shelf with a couple of tiny lamps on them. Various props are stored here for the actors to access throughout the show that begins with the lamps, one at a time, being turned on.

The performers introduce themselves casually –  as in, “Hi, I’m Manami Hara” – and begin his/her first of several stories. The house lights are always on; there’s eye contact. With no fourth wall, we are all in this together. In between the stories, the actors go the blackboards and draw with fat chalk. Or they sing or dance joyfully together. It almost feels like a revival meeting at times; getting something off your chest can bring on a hallelujah.

Rob Salvador, Alexa Devine, Allan Morgan and Manami Hara Credit: Tim Matheson
Robert Salvador, Alexa Devine, Allan Morgan and Manami Hara
Credit: Tim Matheson

Like Manami Hara’s story about her father ending up alone in a filthy care facility, some of the stories are sad. Years later, Hara still keeps a shrine to her ‘Papa’ and has a hard time forgiving herself for letting him spend his last years not getting the care he deserved.

Some of the stories are crazy. Robert Salvador tells a tale that goes back to a summer when he was a teenager. He and six friends made up a game called “Poon-free Summer” that involved punishing each other for “sexual behaviour” by throwing raw eggs at the ‘sinner’. Two eggs for masturbating. Ten eggs if you had sex.

I’m not sure why Alex Devine feels she needs forgiveness for letting her mother come over when all hell was breaking loose with her two little kids. But her later story about discovering a naked man in her bedroom doorway continues to haunt her.

Allan Morgan describes himself as a “chubby little brown boy” when, at ten, a trio of teenaged girls looked at him and one commented loud enough for him to hear, ‘Look, he has tits.” After that, Morgan didn’t take his t-shirt off in public for years. He goes on to talk about his first homosexual experience in a car with a friend of his older brother after which he was dropped off and walked home – alone. No love there.

Presented by Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre, in association with PTC and Radix Theatre, the stories are all true and staged in a ‘collage’ of text, music, photography, video, song and dance.

Much like Winners and Losers, This Stays in the Room invites us to wonder what we would like to get off our conscience and whether the re-telling in such a public way would be cathartic or just too darn scary. A show with this much intimacy only works in a supportive, tolerant, forgiving environment and that’s what the creative team of Cande Andrade, Amber Funk Barton, Alexa Devine, Noah Drew, Manami Hara, Andreas Kahre, Allan Morgan, Mindy Parfitt (director), Robert Salvador and Heidi Taylor establish.

There isn’t a group hug – audience, cast and technicians – afterwards but the evening feels like a warm embrace.