eatingthegame, presented by Hong Kong Exile and currently playing at SummerWorks 2016, makes fun of everything from Chinese investment in Toronto real estate, to diversity in the arts community, and identity politics. It is billed as a “motivational keynote speech.” When I read that description, I didn’t really know what it meant. I’m still not sure what any of it meant.
The piece does indeed open with a 20-minute speech, complete with flashing lights, colourful computer graphics, and upbeat music. Conor Wylie, the playwright and performer, introduces himself as a former actor turned entrepreneur/investment professional. He paces the stage, pumps his fists, and assures us that with potential, belief, and risk anything is possible. The speech is funny, energetic and delivered with a satiric edge.
Then Wylie takes a five-minute break. That’s where he lost me. The house lights actually came up, and I wasn’t sure if the show was over or not. Once he came back on stage, the performance veered all over the place. I had a hard time keeping up.
Throughout the performance, Wylie switches back and forth between the entrepreneur and the actor. We are never sure which one is the real Conor Wylie.
He has the audience participate in a game called “White or Asian?” Karate? Asian. Karate Kid? White. That was pretty fun with some poignant and pointed examples. The game recurs several times as Wylie explores his own ambiguous feelings being half white and half Asian.
From there he moves on to describe winning a spot at SummerWorks, while skewering the whiteness of the Toronto theatre establishment. Wylie includes many specific references to theatre companies and personalities in the city. While his commentary was spot on, it felt very “insider” to me. Like you had to be in the know to get it.
The show featured some cool technical elements – graphics, a hologram, and a close up of Justin Trudeau’s face. There was a simulated cockfight that I found strangely beautiful. But there were some technical glitches as well. Wylie’s mic had an echo for much of the performance. And sometimes I couldn’t hear what he was saying over the music.
Nothing is what it seems in eatingthegame. I was never sure what I supposed to pay attention to or what I was supposed to believe. In the end, it felt to me like Wylie wasn’t sure what he wanted to focus on or what he believed either.
- Tuesday, August 9, 4:15pm – 5:45pm
- Wednesday, August 10, 9:00pm – 10:30pm
- Thursday, August 11, 5:00pm – 6:30pm
- Friday, August 12, 6:45pm – 8:15pm
- Saturday, August 13, 9:00pm – 10:30pm
- Sunday, August 14, 5:15pm – 6:45pm
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Youth Series tickets are $10, Live Art Series ticket prices vary. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 416-320-5779 and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 2-14 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Image provided by SummerWorks.