Members of the cast of This Stays in the Room.
Members of the cast of This Stays in the Room.

The Horsehoes and Hand Grenades Theatre production of This Stays in the Room is a unique and moving experience.

[pullquote]While it may all sound a bit ‘arty’, the hour-long show avoids being sentimental or maudlin and instead develops into an evening about humanity, sharing and witnessing.[/pullquote]With stories of pain and loss blended with multimedia projections and a soundscape from the company artists, under the direction of Mindy Parfitt this concept rises above the usual “artists talking about themselves” and comes together beautifully.

Moving away from the political plays which has been the mainstay for Horseshoes and Grenades in recent shows, This Stays in the Room becomes more of an event or a happening, but with just as much impact in its simplified and ‘earthy’ approach.

Ushered into the Gallery Gachet, the audience chooses from a collection of chairs around a small open area where hanging above their head are white ostrich egg sized orbs with faces projected on them.  Around the audience is an assortment of table lamps and two walls covered in black paper. Suddenly a face is projected on the black paper and echoed on the other wall and a man begins to tell us a story of his youth. Then another face appears, then another.

The cast walks into the performance space, each holding a wicker basket containing a few props. Announcing they are about to share stories, they proceed to echo each other, dance, and make chalk drawings, while interacting with projections and voices.

They tell stories of regret and fear, plus funny stories of sex and pain. While it may all sound a bit ‘arty’, the hour-long show avoids being sentimental or maudlin and instead develops into an evening about humanity, sharing and witnessing.  There is no sage nodding, no hugging no sighing; instead it is charming, engaging and raw.

There is some wonderful stagecraft, including smeared chalk that reveals projections, or videos that are reflected on mirrors. Some of the objects and props are not explained, but you understand their significance by how they are treated.

The entire team involved created This Stays in the Room, including director Mindy Parfitt, designers Noah Drew, Andreas Kahre and Cande Andrade, choreographer Amber Barton Funk and stage manager Lois Dawson.  It also takes the cast of four brave and honest actors: Allan Morgan, Alexa Devine, Robert Olguin and Manami Hara.

This Stays in the Room’s lack of pretension and technical innovation made for a fascinating night.

Directed by Mindy Parfitt. A Horseshoes and Hand Grenades Theatre production.  On stage at the Gallery Gachet (88 East Cordova St) through March 30, 2014.  Visit http://horseshoesandhandgrenades.ca for tickets and information.