Theatre Passe Muraille is launching into its 2022/23 season with The Year of the Cello. A collaborative production with Music Picnic, The Year of the Cello is equal parts musical composition and oral storytelling, making for a dynamic and moving experience. Artistic Director Marjorie Chan is both Director and Co-Creator of this incredible piece, along with Music Picnic’s Njo Kong Kie. A story about love, loss, and finding forgiveness, The Year of the Cello is the perfect way to welcome audiences back to Theatre Passe Muraille.
The Year of the Cello truly allows the text and score to tell its story; with simple and meaningful set and costumes, the design enables the actor and musician to really shine. I enjoyed how they used the upper level of the space primarily for the cellist as it let his music envelop the room. The whole piece seemed somehow out of time and place, as if it could be anywhere, like what Wen, the narrator, discusses at the beginning of the piece.
Wen is played by Rong Fu, and I thought she was absolutely marvellous. Her passion simply radiates from her throughout the performance. Fu fully takes us on Wen’s emotional journey to acceptance and forgiveness; just watching her face and body language change as the cellist plays at the end was fantastic. This is truly an outstanding performance. I was able to see Bryan Holt as the Cellist, and while he doesn’t say anything (despite Wen’s pleading), his emotional journey was just as evident whether he was actively playing his cello or not. I truly enjoyed watching him play; the last several minutes of the show is encompassed by a piece called “The Year of the Cello” written by co-creator Njo Kong Kie especially for this production. To watch both the Cellist and Wen come to some feeling of understanding and forgiveness through his music was incredible.
I also want to give a quick shout-out to the folks at TPM for how accessible they’ve made not only these performances, but their space in general. Everything has been thought of and I really appreciated their attention to detail. Every performance of The Year of the Cello is a relaxed performance, allowing audience members to react how they wish and leave if they need. But what I also enjoyed is how they’re billing it for both blind and sighted audience members; at the beginning, Wren describes herself, the room, and the Cellist, and then begins the story. I think it’s absolutely wonderful and I’m so happy to be seeing such efforts in place in many theatres around the city.
The Year of the Cello is a must-see piece of theatre. I am in awe of the beauty I witnessed thanks to these incredibly talented artists. For more information and for tickets, visit: The Year of the Cello – Theatre Passe Muraille.
Bryan Holt and Rong Fu in The Year of the Cello-photo by Dahlia Katz