Driver Khalil Talke (left) discussed the tricks of the taxi trade with Fare Game’s creators/performers Alex Williams, Ruth Madoc-Jones and Marjorie Chan.
FARE GAME: LIFE IN TORONTO’S TAXIS created and performed by Marjorie Chan, Ruth Madoc-Jones and Alex Williams. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Previews begin Friday (November 16), opens Tuesday (November 22) and runs to December 8, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $30-$35, previews/under-30 $15. 416-504-7529. See listing.
Most of us take a taxicab to get from A to B and, even if we talk with the driver for the brief ride, we rarely give him or her a thought after we've reached our destination.
A new collective creation by Theatre Passe Muraille, Fare Game: Life In Toronto's Taxis, aims to change that.
Ruth Madoc-Jones, one of its three creator/performers, planted the seed for the show with Passe Muraille's artistic director, Andy McKim, two years ago.
"When I get into a taxi, I often get into political discussions with the drivers," says Madoc-Jones, smiling. "I find the people I meet this way fascinating, and I thought their stories would make a good piece of theatre."
When he was organizing this fall's season, which focuses on Toronto tales beyond the theatre's walls, McKim gave Madoc-Jones a chance to develop that concept. She invited writer/performer/director Marjorie Chan and multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker Alex Williams to join her.
"I said yes because I wanted to explore the idea that the drivers are marginalized in some regard, both in the kind of work they do and by their racial background," says Williams. "The most interesting question for me was, ‘Why don't more white Canadians drive cabs?' Is this one of the few jobs open to new Canadians?
"Has it always been like this, I wonder, or does it have something to do with demographics? In 1961, 98 per cent of Canadians were from European backgrounds; today that number has dropped to 61 per cent."
Chan's involvement stems from her associaton with Cahoots Theatre and Crossing Gibraltar, a theatre program for young refugees.
"The work of the young people was so pure that I wanted to continue to put the stories of new Canadians onstage," notes Chan. "Since my other stage work is more overtly theatrical, working on a show like Fare Game is a challenge to explore a piece that has its roots in documentary."
By coincidence, the trio started their research at the same time that the city was carrying out a general assessment of the industry. The three interviewed not only cabbies, but also the various players in the taxi landscape, from the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee to shift drivers, fleet owners and agents.
An important part of their creative process was to discover how to integrate the live action onstage and the film segments. They call the result a living documentary.
"We want to represent the cabbies as faithfully as we could," explains Williams, "and finally hit on the idea of using the film frame itself, created by the camera, as a kind of proscenium, a window into their lives. We knew that as theatre creators we couldn't stand in for them and tell their stories; video is a more faithful representation."
In telling his history, one of the drivers recognized the subjectivity of the project. He told the three that they had no choice but to tell the story from their own perspectives.
"In the end, we're truthful to their voices and recognize ourselves as listeners," says Chan. "We've been empathetic witnesses to the stories of the drivers, and now the audience will be, too. I hope the next time they take a taxi, viewers will see the driver in a new way."