Review: The Election (Theatre Passe Muraille presents a Common Boots Theatre Production in Association with Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Direct)

Photo of the cast of The Election, timely play about election campaign volunteersYou can’t vote at The Election at Theatre Passe Muraille, but you’ll laugh

The Election opened at Theatre Passe Muraille on Friday. “Huh?” I can hear you thinking, “I’m pretty sure the election is on October 21st.” Yes, the Federal Election is on Monday, October 21st. That’s not the election I’m talking about. This is a play is about volunteering for federal candidates in the 2015 election.

My friend Patricia has a lot of experience working on federal political campaigns, both as a staffer and a volunteer. It made sense for me to ask her to come with me, I don’t know anything about volunteering for a campaign. She said that the campaign office parts of the play were true to life. It reinforced why I don’t volunteer to work election campaigns.

The play isn’t just about campaigning; it’s also about the personal stories of the volunteers. The personal stories are what made it interesting to me. For the most part the comedy is in the campaign offices.

In 2015 five theatre artists volunteered for election campaigns in urban, suburban, and rural ridings across Canada. Playwrights Natasha Greenblatt and Yolanda Bonnell – two of the volunteers – used their experiences as the inspiration for the play which looks at Indigenous, Newcomer, and Settler experiences with the political process.

Six actors (Augusto Bitter, Rachel Cairns, Joelle Peters, Anand Rajaram, Rose Stella, and Courtenay Stevens) play over 35 characters (I got that from the press release, I didn’t actually count.)

One of my favourite things in the play are the vocal descriptions that are used throughout. When a new character enters they’re described aloud by an offstage voice. It’s a result of Accessibility Dramaturg Alex Bulmer’s work to make the play accessible for blind audiences.

I loved them because often the description didn’t match the person and it let me change my picture of the character. Patricia said it was a bit like a radio play. I’d love to see a lot more plays use this.

All of the sound and music was made by the cast. Composer Alex Samaras’s earth sounds and chorus music were haunting. His song Reconciliation Soup was great.

The cast made the sound effects. The microwave was terrific. The beeps and the ‘done’ signal sounded a lot like my microwave.

The spoken stage directions and enhanced vocal score also helped Director Jennifer Brewin change scenes quickly. The stage barely empties from one scene and Boom! The next scene starts with a description of who’s there and what they’re doing. The timing and pace were good. At 2 hours with an intermission, this is a fairly long play. It has to keep moving fast to hold the audience, and it does.

The play isn’t screaming “Go out and vote for The X!”, the most passionate speech was about Indigenous people and their relationship to Canada. An environmental theme ran through the entire piece, time is running out, we have to to something.

The Election is a good reminder of the last federal election, of some bizarre moments in the campaign. It might make you remember why you voted the way you did. It’s pretty funny. You should go see it.

Vote on October 21st. Or in an advance poll.

Details:

  • The Election is playing until October 27 at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
  • Performance times are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30pm with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm
    • All performance include integrated audio description
    • Touch tours October 25 at 6:30 pm and October 26 at 1:00 pm
    • Open Captioning October 19 2:00 pm and October 25 7:30 pm
    • Relaxed performance with Childcare Sunday, Oct 20 at 2:00 pm
  • Ticket prices range from $17 to $38. PWYC at the door on all matinees and Tuesday evening performances
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-504-7529, or at the box office

Photo of the cast provided by the company