Attending a performance of Ephemeral Home, created by Lily Sutherland and co-performed with Rebekka Gondosch, is one of the most unique and rewarding Fringe experiences you are likely to encounter. The performance is a non-linear theatre piece on what home means to many, many different people around the world and down the block.
First, the venue is unique to any show in the Fringe this year, or any year I can recall in recent memory. It's not a theatre or a gallery, it is someone's home.
This is one of the least affluent areas of the City. According to realtor.ca, the average household income is $46,519, while the median income for Hamilton is reported to be $86,119. Moreover, with the pace at which traffic whipped by on Wilson, it felt like 567 Wilson Street was somewhere to go through, not somewhere to be. The neighbourhood park had been replaced with a parking lot.
Yet, Sunderland and Gondosch invite us in. The ticket booth is the front porch. And if you're hungry, the waiting area is the kitchen, where you'll be treated to cookies and tea (thanks for the Fudgee-O's). You are, after all, coming into someone's home, and isn't the kitchen the real entertaining area of the home?
After that, the audience is given their choice of seats in the living room or the dining room. Everyone stayed in the living room, and Gondosch commented that was how it was for most visitors to the venue. We were given a few minutes to absorb the venue, which at one point would have been a point of pride for one of its families.
There is an intricate wooden mantle and the baseboards show obvious former wealth. But the wallpaper is dated and peeling, and there's at least one too-many layers of paint in the dining room. We're told that the house was last occupied by five students, but I would think that the house had started its decline into neglect long before that.
And then it begins, the performance - but the show probably started long before, as each audience member decided to enter the space of 567 Wilson Street.
The performance itself is a number of micro-vignettes. They're only micro in time, but they are packed with energy, information and emotion. We delve into why the piece is called Ephemeral Home.
Sunderland and Gondosch use the space extremely well. The properties are minimal and I was surprised by how well they used a transparency projector. (I hadn't seen a transparency projector since I had been in middle school.) In fact, given the setting, it was incredible what they achieved with light and sound. Technical transitions were done in front of the audience, but they were not overly distracting.
There was a lot to absorb, but never once was the audience overwhelmed. There were shades of theatre greats lurking in these performances. Some will note the intertextuality with Samuel Beckett. I thought I heard some Philip Glass. No matter the influences, "Ephemeral Home" is thoroughly unique.
Be forewarned, friends: it's quite a hike from every other Fringe venue to 567 Wilson Street. Although it is walkable from some venues, you likely need the assistance of a vehicle of some sort (car, bike, public transit). As such, you should give yourself enough time to get there and get back to the rest of the Fringe. Ephemeral Home is the fringe of the Fringe, you could say.
Lastly, it struck me after a night's sleep that Ephemeral Home is a metaphor for theatre itself. For those brief moments when the lights go down, we - the audience, actors and crew alike - are there together in that shared home.
There's a lot to talk about. There's a lot to experience. Don't let Ephemeral Home slip away. Go see it.
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