FARE GAME: LIFE IN TORONTO’S TAXIS by Marjorie Chan, Ruth Madoc-Jones and Alex Williams (Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). Runs to December 8, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $30-$45, under 30, $15. 416-504-7529. >a href=" Rating: NNN
An eye-opening ride through the world of our city's cab drivers, Fare Game: Life In Toronto's Taxis, is part history, part contemporary documentary, part storytelling.
Covering a lot of material in an hour, the show is better focused in its second half as it examines an industry that needs reassessment and compassionate attention to its front-line workers.
Creator/performers Marjorie Chan, Ruth Madoc-Jones and Alex Williams spent months interviewing, combing through records and discovering first-hand the problems of the drivers. By coincidence, at the time of their research, the city's Licensing and Standards Committee began reassessing the industry.
As part of the production, the three become witnesses to as well as commentators on the stories they tell; Williams's videos of interviews and meetings provide the show with a documentation of drivers' lives and opinions about their livelihood. We watch these testimonies along with the actors; we are all privy to the investigation.
The often fascinating historical information - Toronto's first taxi business, for instance, was established by Thornton Blackburn, a black man who came to Canada via the Underground Railway - feeds into the contemporary situation, in which most of the drivers at the bottom of a taxi pecking order are from Third World countries.
The show and the drivers make a great deal about the difference between the ambassador and the standard licenses. The former, established in 1998, is rented from the city and doesn't allow holders to sell the plate or have a second driver for their car, while the latter provides much more freedom to its holders, who don't sound very sympathetic to the ambassador licensees.
As one ambassador driver says, it's like he has a work permit rather than a real job. No surprise, given the statistics, that there's a suggestion of racism in the criticisms leveled against the taxi industry, with its numerous and sometimes confusing players, who range from shift workers to jobbers and agents to fleet owners.
The data of the first half, which could be organized in a clearer, more structured fashion, becomes more individual in the second, with Madoc-Jones, Williams and Chan each recounting a story that gives a personal touch to the taxi drivers' situation. It's here that the material resonates emotionally, subtly contrasting the problems of the job with poignant connections, albeit brief, made between passenger and driver.
There are no answers yet for resolving problems in the industry; a hearing that began in September is ongoing, with the drivers seeking better regulations in their work. Audience members are encouraged to get involved, and they'll be further persuaded by the production's empathetic view of the people in the taxi business.