27 July 2017
Flooded is set on a boat, but not just any boat. One warm and sunny (thank god) Toronto July evening I found myself on The Pirate Life Boat sailing around the Toronto Islands, witnessing a beautiful, funny, and intense spectacle.
Directed by Ara Glenn-Johanson, the production consists of four performers (Hayden Finkelshtain, Melanie Leon, Duncan Rowe, and Nicole Wilson), and they begin by standing on the top deck, pouring water into their mouths, and spit-speaking it out in a frenzy of chaotic rambling and shouting. They then travel to the centre of the boat, where they spend the rest of the trip. They form a team, or a troupe, or a community, or, most likely, all of the above.
The show is ultimately clowning-meets-physical theatre, without a real narrative to tie it together but with enough characterization and connection in and between the performers to maintain the audience’s attention for the entire time. They tell us to feel free to enjoy the boat ride, that it’s okay if we don’t watch the show the entire time, but the energy of the performance and the intensity of it makes it hard to look away. There is a huge spectrum of emotion happening in the centre of the boat: they tease each other, goad each other, challenge and support each other. They are angry, sad, humiliated, amused, delighted and attracted at and by each other. There is something childlike and pure and raw about their dynamic, something we don’t often see in this isolated yet playful form.
And their energy is infectious. There are small moments the actors turn to the audience to get a reaction, or to connect, and you can’t help but smile when they smile, and agree that yes, totally, their partner just did a really great bit. The entire show has an energy and a flow that is not a narrative but an experience, something in which to immerse oneself, and then come up for air.