Toronto certainly has some of the most beautiful and interesting theatre spaces around; the more that I attend, the more impressed I am by what the city has to offer. However, site-specific theatre offers a unique opportunity for immersive, interactive experiences that can shed different light on a work. After seeing The Good Thief last weekend, it got me thinking about how interesting this kind of theatre is and how some plays, like The Good Thief, seem like they were meant to be done this way.
For those who might not be familiar with the term, site-specific theatre refers to a theatre performance which is staged in a non-traditional space, and usually is directly connected to the text itself. While theatre has been performed in non-traditional spaces as long as humans have been telling stories, there has been a move towards really connecting the text to the location where its being performed. While something like Sleep No More, which was very popular in New York City, could be considered site-specific theatre as it took place in a hotel, Macbeth doesn’t share that setting.
This is what made The Good Thief so enchanting; by producing the play in a pub, and an Irish pub at that, it just seemed like this was the obvious and only way to do this play. David Mackett, the actor who starred in the production, even started the play amongst the audience, picking up a Guinness from the bar as he made his way to the small stage at the back of the room. Even while he was on stage, there was a relaxed quality to the way he sat and spoke, drank his beer while he weaved his story, it was as if he was recounting the events of his crazy life to his friends down at his local watering hole. The action of the play also starts in a bar, so it makes the physical setting of this production make all the more sense. While this was my first interaction with the text and the space, I got this feeling like The Good Thief was made to be done this way; I found it hard to think about the play being done in a more traditional setting.
I’m really hoping to see more site-specific theatre here in Toronto. While I love sitting in the plush seats of a traditional theatre, there is a special kind of delight in site-specific performances. I enjoy feeling like a active participant in the storytelling and getting to explore new spaces through theatre. There are still 3 chances left to see The Good Theif if you want to go and see what I’m talking about for yourself, but hopefully I’ll be writing about many more in the future!