I’m very fond of site-specific venues. I find the possibilities for dynamic audience-performer relationships and immersive experiences very intriguing. And so Table 7 – A Play in Cafes Creation, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, caught my eye.
Table 7 takes place at Paintbox Bistro in Regent Park. The audience is seated at tables and the drama unfolds around them. There are five characters: restaurant patrons Diana (Violet Mount), Carla (Alexandrine M’Banga) and Rosie (Julia Beaulieu); a Server, Tali (Kaila Hunte) and the Manager (Tea Nguyen).
Carla and Rosie are a couple in a heated discussion about gentrification. There is underlying tension because one of Carla’s close family members is quite ill and Rosie is feeling self-conscious and doesn’t want to show affection in public. Nearby, there is Diana, a business-woman with some involvement with the gentrification project that has Carla riled up.
A conflict arises between all three and the situation escalates quickly. An altercation occurs. The manager and server are unsuccessful in diffusing the situation and must ask either Diana or Carla and Rosie to leave. The audience, taking all they have seen and heard into account, must decide who should leave. And discuss why.
This really is a fascinating and thrilling concept to me. And, for the most part, I was thoroughly immersed in the situation. The performances are convincing and the situation compelling. Playwright Chantal Forde’s actual dialogue sounded a little clunky to me, but I’m aware that the intent of the text isn’t to create rich, layered characterizations, but provide a clear and simple set-up that allows for smooth audience participation and discussion.
The scene plays out three times, but with slight changes. With each run, the story and basic actions remain the same, but we are given more context for a specific characters’s situation. The purpose, I think, is to show how differently we perceive behaviour based on what we know about specific circumstances and mood. What perplexed me, though, was that some characters’ whole demeanour changed completely. It often seemed as if their very personalities were entirely altered.
The drama that unfolds incorporates a few compelling nuances, specifically: racism, classism, homophobia, and partner abuse. Though I found the script itself somewhat bland, these elements are worked in rather subtly in both the writing and Mandy Roveda’s direction.
Though a little rough around the edges, Table 7 – A Plays in Cafes Creation is an innovative and engaging theatrical experience and well worth the hour.