Review : Mojo (Ezra’s Atlantic Co-op)

by George Perry

Hidden gem in Toronto theatre scene

I was really looking forward to seeing Mojo.  It is played in a rented warehouse in Toronto’s east end. The company is Ezra’s Atlantic Co-op.  It is really hard not to be a fan of these folks.  They have been mounting plays in unconventional locations throughout Toronto for years. 

The play was written by Jez Butterworth in 1995 and premiered at The Royal Court Theatre in London, England.  It is billed as a dark comedy that looks at the backrooms of the British rock scene in the late 1950s.

I can most certainly identify with the do-it-yourself ethic.  Some would call it punk rock.  Others would call it simply rock-and-roll.  The point is to make art accessible and enjoyable for all.   It’s a little like The Negro Leagues “barnstorming” in the bad old days of segregated baseball.

Theatre is indeed for everyone.   Ivory towers and sermons from the mount bore the vast majority of thinking adults.  Proof of this is the popularity of things like open mic nights and karaoke.  Mojo and other plays bring theatre to places it wouldn’t otherwise be.

That being said, there are also a lot of great reasons for having a “permanent” home. 

Good sound and a decent set are two things that come to mind.  Unfortunately, Mojo had neither.  I sat in the back row.  Behind the makeshift bleachers was a large empty space, littered with power tools and other debris.  The sound/light person on the other side of the theatre was distracting and at times upstaging what was happening on stage.    The person sitting beside me fell asleep over and over again.  A simple curtain might have helped these problems enormously.

Benjamin Blais is quoted as saying “We need lots of hands to tack sequins on the wall to create the feel of a seedy nightclub.”  The venue is a warehouse.  It looked and felt like a warehouse with really bad Christmas decorations.

I showed up early at the meeting place, Lolabar.  It was occupied by three friendly men who knew each other.  They spoke a language unknown to me and massaged one another.  They also preferred Judge Judy to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. 

The audience gathered and was lead through a maze of hallways.  It was a somewhat claustrophobic walk through various hallways to the theatre.

Call me a redneck or an unsophisticated American hick, but in this makeshift echo chamber/ warehouse, it was hard to follow the thick British accents onstage.  As a result, I might as well have been listening to those guys in the bar speaking Greek. 

If you like Trainspotting, Reservoir Dogs and the screaming matches on Coronation Street, you’ll love Mojo.

I know this doesn’t say a whole lot about the play, but it is the experience of seeing this play.  Often there is no gain without pain, like getting your health card renewed, getting a passport or getting medical attention.  The trouble and hassle of going through the process is sometimes the entire story.  A picnic on The Island always sounds like a great idea, but sometimes the two hour wait for a ferry turns that idea sour.

-Mojo played Dec 4th – 19th at the corner of Dundas and Carlaw (1173 Dundas St. E.)

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