Critic in residence Nicholas Leno writes,

Time is broken, and even though your location may seem incredibly familiar, you can’t be too sure of where you really are. D.L.T. Teatro’s whirlwind epic Midway Along the Journey of Our Life begins as you, the one and only audience member, don a blindfold and headphones. You are blindly led down St. Paul Street as a mysterious voice invites you to embark on this theatrical experience of a lifetime. The blindfold is removed, and your quest begins. Easily recognizable St. Catharine’s landmarks – the bus terminal, Niagara Artists Center, the street itself – are transformed into parts of a mythical world where you are the hero.

I can’t say much about the story, because it’s something you need to experience for yourself. What I can tell you is that along this wild journey you will encounter everything from James Joyce’s Ulysses to Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit – who surprisingly isn’t late for anything. During the brief meetings you have with these crazy and passionate personalities, you will be given clues to decode a briefcase you are charged with protecting along your quest.

What does my case contain? Where am I? Who are these strange characters? Who am I in this story? Questions rattle through your brain as you run up and down St. Paul Street searching for the next mysterious character. It’s an adrenaline-filled, poetic head case of a show, and so very rewarding.

Midway is an immersive theatre experience that is as much a theatrical game as it is a play. One on one performance is used to make the spectator feel not only like they are part of the story, but that they actually have control within it. Although this may sound radically experimental, this type of story construction has been gaining rapid popularity in the last thirty years through the medium of video gaming. A video game immerses its spectator in a story by making them the protagonist; the spectator carries out actions that ultimately determine what is happening within the game’s world. While Midway is performance-orientated, it borrows this concept from gaming by making you the character of a play written for and about you. In combination with the multitude of site specific performances (that you are responsible for navigating!) this is enough to make anyone feel immersed in the creative and innovate world D.L.T. Teatro has constructed.

The stories of this world are playfully captivating and delivered with great authenticity by the wonderful company of actors.  Not only incredibly believable, the actors are so invested in the world of the play that their interactions with the participant seem completely natural, even improvised. I was amazed by the actors’ ability to establish prolonged eye contact, and how familiar this makes the characters feel. It’s shocking how good the actors are at guiding and prompting you within the immersive performance; by the end of your journey the wave of an actor’s hand will have you barrelling headfirst through the crowded St. Catharines bus terminal, clutching your briefcase.

If participatory theatre isn’t for you, don’t worry – it’s fairly low risk. Other than traveling down St. Paul Street with a funny hat and briefcase, participants are not asked to do anything too out of the ordinary. Between the enchanting voice in your head phones – which belongs to director Daniele Bartolini – and the quirky characters who guide you, there is little room for error. Sure, there’s the small chance that something might go wrong but – in both theatre and adventures alike – isn’t that always the case?midway picture

Midway Along the Journey of Our Life will be playing April 25th-27th.
The Journey begins at The Harris (346 St. Paul Street).
Admission is $20 or a Festival Pass.

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