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'The In-Between' by Marcus Youssef

Produced by Montréal's Geordie Theatre and Presented Digitally by Young People's Theatre

Courtesy of Young People's Theatre website

Joe Szekeres

It has only been five years since I retired from my 33-year career as a Catholic educator.

But seeing how young people in schools and their lives today must navigate themselves through social extreme mazes that neither I had to confront when I was a student nor when I taught has left me aghast and shocked at the world in which we now find ourselves. Is it a cultural norm thing? Is it societal microcosmic view of a macrocosmic issue? Is it just a cultural thing? Is it a mixture of everything?

How can young people even begin to focus on their studies when all these outlying and varying issues ply at the very nerves and being of impressionable youth?

And how to incorporate these issues into a one hour play for young people that will appeal to them to tackle these issues head on with resilience and fortitude?

In partnership with Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre, Montréal’s Geordie Theatre presents a sometimes disturbing but oh so very important digital dramatic presentation of playwright Marcus Youssef’s ‘The In-Between’. This was my first digital viewing of the piece.

I’m going to be honest here and state that five years ago, if I saw this production and knew it was touring to schools, I would probably tell my administration to take a pass on it. These issues five years ago would not have had any real clout in my school district since my 33-year career was in the Ontario Catholic school system where we were to focus solely on the teachings of the Catholic faith in our daily lives and subjects within the system.

How quickly time has flown and how fast opinion can be informed and changed given what has gone on in our world.

You ask me today, and I will now tell you ‘The In-Between’ IS an important dramatic piece that ALL young people 13 years and up MUST see, and that includes in the Ontario Catholic school system. If this production tours to schools, even better as its full dramatic impact can be fully realized with teacher co-operation and preparation along with parental consent.

From a release: Set in a contemporary high school where social media, misinformation, stereotypes and discrimination are ever-present, ‘The In-Between’ tells a story of three teenagers who navigate friendship as well as their cultural, racial and religious identities. Qianna MacGilchrist is narrator Lily. When she develops a new crush for Karim (Sepher Reybod), Lily and her best friend Britt (Skylar Clark) collide over racist, anti-Muslim memes with a misunderstanding which escalates to a school lockdown. Caught in the middle, Lily finds herself having to navigate splintered friendships and tangled truths between her two friends.

Since we’re slowly returning to live theatre, I’ve had the good fortune to see several strong ensemble productions. I’m going to place this digital ‘The In-Between’ in this category as well.

Skylar Clark, Qianna MacGilchrist and Sepher Reybod become convincingly and naturally believable as three uniquely distinct young people who, according to a release I received, are all living their own ‘in-between’ in an increasingly complex world.

Directed with an indefatigable vision of hard-edged realism and sensitive compassion by Mike Payette, Marcus Youssef’s script effectively captured quite well the verisimilitude of the young person’s vernacular in all its colourful language and images. (No f bombs dropped so thank goodness for that).

One moment that worked so well for me was watching the three-way text conversation between the actors. There are screens behind the actors, so we can read the texts. Not a word was uttered for approximately five minutes, but this moment expertly captured the true life of the twenty first century young person who is constantly on his/her/their phone ALL THE TIME. I went back to watch that scene again because I was intrigued in watching the manipulation of the phones and seeing the facial work of these young people who never allowed their expressions to upstage another performer.

So good to watch this scene. I may go back and watch that moment again for a third time.

Diana Uribe’s simplistic set design and appropriate costume selection allowed me to focus my complete attention on the characters and their interaction with each other. I loved how the three performers just moved benches on their side to create another setting. The costumes on the three actors nicely reflected their individual characters. Timothy Rodrigues and Rob Denton as Lighting and Sound Designers fluidly created a world which truly reflected that ‘loss of innocence and youth’ in the lives of Lily, Karim, and Britt.

I must credit Designer Amelia Scott as videography must be soundly recognized here as it wonderfully heightened at times the tension of a particular scene (where Lily invites both Karim and Britt after the school lockdown where he was arrested) and at the top of the show where we are introduced to the two girls. Although I do love attending live theatre, Scott’s work in videography allowed closeup camera angles when necessary to see how each of the characters respond.

Final Comments: The In-Between is a gutsy and often an unsentimental look at what happens to young people trying to navigate the real world who lean that “being an in-between isn’t always a bad place to be.” As a retired Ontario educator, I would strongly recommend classrooms and students from the age of 13+ should have the opportunity to see it.

‘The In-Between’ is On Demand to May 14. Individuals and schools may contact or call 1-416-862-2222.

Approximate running time: 1 hour and 10 minutes. There is a Q and A following the digital performance.

THE IN-BETWEEN by Marcus Youssef

Produced by Geordie Theatre and presented digitallyin co-operation with Young People’s Theatre

Directed by Mike Payette

The Cast: Skylar Clark, Qianna MacGilchrist, Sepher Reybod

Set and Costume Designer - Diana Uribe

Video Designer - Amelia Scott

Timothy Rodrigues - Lighting Designer

Rob Denton - Sound Designer

Kelsey Rae - Stage Manager

Dramaturgy - Emma Tibaldo, Playwrights' Workshop Montréal

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