Inspired by the work of Frantz Fanon’s—a Caribbean-born psychiatrist and political activist, whose work addressed the impact of colonization on Black identity and mental health—Here are the Fragments, presented by ECT Theatre Collective and The Theatre Centre, is both a stunning technical achievement and a compelling experiential phenomenon.
With an immersive design that allows audience members to explore the space freely, it balances structured dramatic performance with random audience engagement. The story, which we piece together from fragments, begins with an introductory meeting with Dr. Chauvet (Allan Louis). When we first encounter him, he is a vibrant and authoritative presence. Before our eyes, we see him stripped of his lab coat, left hunched and silent, lost in his too-large cardigan and adrift in the even larger sea of his schizophrenia.
We meet his son Eduard (Kwaku Adu-Poku) who, frustrated by his isolating condition and desperate to connect, commits himself to a thorough and empathetic investigation of his father’s work. His fascination with and capacity for technological innovation figures prominently in the show’s heartfelt and hopeful finale.
Before we ever get close the possibility of healing though, the audience must contend with an overwhelming bombardment of sensory stimuli. You are left to your own independent investigation of the space and its multi-media exhibits. There are published texts, personal notebooks, scraps of paper, suspended headphones that lure you in to intimate confessions, and many screens on which disorienting images flash out at you.
As you navigate the space, you are forced to shift your focus, to engage or ignore the multitude of information you encounter. All these voices are, I gather, intended as a theatrical representation of schizophrenia. There is so much to take in that I found myself sometimes anxious that I was missing some vital clue tucked away in a dark corner.
Without warning, brief yet transfixing scenes erupt between the performers. Though they feel as disparate as the rest of the experience, they bring the audience together and focus their attention. This is valuable as it helps to strengthen the communal experience and provide some context for understanding the detailed props that fill the space.
There are many meaningful threads to follow here; the thrill of discovery lines whichever individual path you choose as you interact with the immersive environment. The defining theme here—the core that resonates through it all—is the institutional racism Dr. Chauvet has internalized and which has shattered his sense of self and sabotaged his professional and personal lives.
Here are the Fragments was written by Suvendrini Lema, a CAMH neurologist, and developed through the Theatre Centre Residency Program. Directors Leah Cherniak and Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu and their innovative team of designers have crafted a dense and absorbing piece of immersive theatre. Pulling you into the fraught headspace of an afflicted life, it is an intense visceral experience that will leave you with plenty to unpack afterwards.