Face Value: Leslieville

FACE VALUE: LESLIEVILLE by Tracey Hoyt, directed and with photography by Kate Ashby (Crows Theatre/East End Performance Crawl). Runs to.


FACE VALUE: LESLIEVILLE by Tracey Hoyt, directed and with photography by Kate Ashby (Crows Theatre/East End Performance Crawl). Runs to June 1, various times. $15. Pentimento Gallery (1164 Queen East). 416-907-0468, crowstheatre.com. See listing. Rating: NNN

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or more, if you’re Tracey Hoyt. In Face Value: Leslieville, the genial, imaginative improviser creates wonderfully vivid stories based on pictures she’s seeing for the first time.

Five covered-up photographs by Kate Ashby (who’s better known as an actor and director) line the walls of the Pentimento Gallery, and as Hoyt unveils them one at a time, she begins spinning tales. She becomes an old man walking home with a newspaper and plastic bag, recounting his daily routine a young girl whose hopes of becoming a gymnast are later crushed a cheerful woman who refuses to leave her apartment, although her building’s being torn down…. You get the picture, or Hoyt does, anyway.

The performer suggests the photo subjects’ posture and voice, and as with any improv-based show, the work becomes richer as more details are added: the pride that the old man takes in his appearance, the cheerful woman’s annoyance at her neighbours.

At the performance I see, Hoyt seems most inspired by the black-and-white photograph of a young, bespectacled boy who’s standing in front of a bit of graffiti. He becomes a latchkey kid who’s breathlessly looking forward to his glamorous aunt’s arrival with a second-hand Xbox. With it, he’ll finally be able to watch Netflix and catch up on the games and shows his classmates are obsessed with.

Various themes emerge: displacement, gentrification, how time and experience affect one’s perspective. Hoyt intersperses her stories with her own memories of Leslieville, but unfortunately these aren’t as vivid. And some sequences seem incongruous a recurring one about a spelling bee is confusing. (Is it the old man as a youngster?)

Of course every show will be different. Hoyt’s a game, instinctive performer, and she, Ashby’s evocative photographs and the characters that come out of them help pleasantly pass the time for an hour.

More on the East End Performance Crawl here.

glenns@nowtoronto.com | @glennsumi

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