At The Firehall Arts Centre until October 2
Posted on September 28, 2013
Toronto’s Tommy Taylor confirms what we’ve always known: all you need to make good theatre is a really good story and a really good storyteller. And, boy, does Taylor have a doozy.
On June 26, 2010, Tommy and a couple of friends wandered down towards Toronto’s Allan Gardens to take a look at the ‘tent city’ that had grown up as part of the protest against the G20 summit meeting. What they found was a thousand peaceful protesters – young, old, fat, thin, long-haired and short, a representative cross-section of Canadians concerned about issues like poverty, capitalism, gay and aboriginal rights, and the increasing influence of large multi-national corporations. Police presence was intense despite the fact that Allan Gardens were in the so-called ‘Free Speech Zone’ and a full two kilometers away from where the G20 meetings were taking place.
Tommy, Ben and Kate left, bought a slushy and were heading home but not before mounted police and vans full of cops – brought in from as far away as Calgary – began to arrive. The trio tried to explain they weren’t protesters and they were on their way home but to no avail. Soon they were ‘kettled’ along with hundreds of others including a 16-year-old kid, a cerebral palsied guy in a wheelchair and a Keg employee coming off shift. Their wrists were zap strapped, Taylor was separated from Ben and Kate and they were bussed to a detention centre where they were put in ‘cages’ with up to forty people in each.
Over a thousand arrests were made; it was the largest number of mass arrests in Canadian history. It was also the first time in the history of Toronto that teargas was used.
Tommy Taylor would be the first to admit that there were violent protesters who did a lot of damage. But there were hundreds and hundreds of innocent bystanders who were swept up by police, confined, denied water, phone calls and legal aid for hours and hours. While they were detained, police were heard talking about “faggots and dykes” and making cracks about this not being “Auschwitz.
Taylor is not a whiner. He’s an engaging, chunky, shorthaired, regular guy in a t-shirt that has a maple leaf and FREEDOM written on the front; it’s the same shirt he was wearing that night. He tells the story in thirteen parts, beginning with “Apathy Will Kill You” to “See You On Facebook” and it’s a straightforward breakdown of events over forty-eight hours. He’s so matter-of-fact about it, that the account is even more chilling. Taylor seems less angry than surprised and disappointed that such a thing could happen in Canada – the land of peacekeepers and a populace famous for saying “Sorry.” Two Germans caught up in the arrests commented, “We had no idea Canada was like this. This is not a free country.”
Taylor doesn’t have to get heavy to get our blood boiling over the arrest of a guy in a wheelchair or literally a thousand caged detainees begging for water or an opportunity to pee in private. The image of handcuffed women – strangers to each other – wiping each other after using the door-less portapotty, speaks volumes.
Written and performed by Tommy Taylor and co-produced by the Firehall Arts Centre, Toronto’s Praxis Theatre and the Original Norwegian, You Should Have Stayed Home is a troubling but very satisfying piece of theatre. Don’t stay home; support Taylor in his wakeup call to the nation. He takes volunteers to join him in his onstage cage; if you want a little taste of what it was like – and what should never be allowed to happen again, email firstname.lastname@example.org.