SummerWorks review: hiraeth

Solo show about a woman confronting her younger self is engaging but doesn't completely deliver on its promising idea

HIRAETH by Mandy E. MacLean (hiraeth collective/SummerWorks). At the Toronto Media Arts Centre. Aug 11 at 4 pm, Aug 13 at 8:30 pm, Aug 15 at 6:30 pm, Aug 16 at 7:30 pm, Aug 17 at 2:30 pm. See listing. Rating: NNN

Mandy E. MacLean’s solo show starts well but doesn’t quite deliver on a promising idea. 

MacLean’s anxious persona is endearing from the top as she scurries in, apologizing for her lateness, setting the confessional tone as she blurts out anxiety after anxiety, including whether or not we think she’s done the land acknowledgement correctly. 

There’s minimal participation, but the audience becomes part of the show, mainly acting as the weekly support group to whom she divulges her conflicted relationship to her childhood home, and the memories contained within. 

MacLean uses voice recordings of a childhood audio diary that gives us insight into the hopes and anxieties and confusions of her younger self. But at one point she is wrapped in a garbage bag with a flashlight, making ghost sounds over the recording, which detracts from the mood. At another, playing her childhood self, she yells at her (imagined) mother, which feels too jarring for the intimate Gamma Gallery space and takes you out of the moment. 

Leah Holder’s direction makes effective use of the venue, and the chalk room labels MacLean frantically draws on the floor help to create a sense of both the physical space in which the protagonist grew up, but also the ways in which certain memories have been compartmentalized and shoved into boxes, literally and figuratively.

While the show is engaging throughout, it needs a more satisfying culmination of its various threads.

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