'The Shadow Whose Prey The Hunter Becomes'
Now onstage at Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto
Credit: Kyra Kind Centre: Sarah Mainwaring. L: Simon Laherty R: Scott Price
“Timely production. ‘Shadow’ pierces honestly and openly the human emotions regarding disability.”
The story is set in a public meeting in a community hall in Geelong, Australia. In his Programme Note, Director Bruce Gladwin calls ‘The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes’: “the type of public meeting one would hope to happen in a certain kind of democracy.
What’s unique about ‘Shadow’ is the use of human conversation between three neuro-divergent actors, Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, and Scott Price, to move the story forward. The play becomes an emotional gut punch regarding how individuals and mega corporations treat neuro-divergent individuals. It sent me back over forty years ago to my first year of teaching. ‘Robbie’ was a thirteen-year-old student in my class who, like Sarah Mainwaring, had suffered a severe head injury. There was always this sense that ‘Robbie’ didn’t truly feel like others accepted him, just as Sarah had experienced.
That’s how powerful this story becomes personally.
Good theatre gets its audiences to think, and that’s precisely what this opening night did for me. Had I done enough as a first-year teacher to meet Robbie’s education requirements and help him feel he belonged in the class?
I hope and pray so, but ‘Shadow’ makes me think otherwise.
Laherty and Mainwaring enter at the top of the show. Costume Designer Shio Otani has the two of them wearing comfortable clothing. Simon looks like he’s trying to follow the latest fashion, as his designer-looking jeans are stylishly ripped and frayed. Sarah is comfortably dressed. About fifteen minutes after Scott enters, he is smartly dressed, wearing a blazer, plaid shirt, comfortable-looking trousers, and shoes.
Set Design is basic. Laherty places five chairs side by side on centre stage as he and Sarah converse. Through the assistance of Screen Designer Rhian Hinkley, the audience follows Simon and Sarah’s dialogue through voice activation. Surtitles are projected onto a screen above the stage so the audience can follow.
Some amusing moments ensue between Simon and Sarah at the top of the show. Like anyone who feels comfortable with another person, the odd swear word is injected into the conversation. There is also some frank discussion between Sarah and Simon about sexual activity and consent. This discussion gives way to the two of them sometimes snapping back and forth at each other. Sometimes, Scott becomes the referee in a few heated moments between Sarah and Simon.
Bruce Gladwin directs with careful sensitivity. He allows Simon, Sarah, and Scott to voice what they have experienced personally or learned on their own.
We must listen to them.
And it’s revealing when the truth is out.
Laherty, Mainwaring and Price admirably deliver honest performance work. I felt my eyes well, and from what? Shame? Embarrassment? Anger over how neuro-divergent people have been treated historically?
The honest answer is YES.
‘Shadow’ also examines the controversial use of AI (artificial intelligence), which is troublesome in our twenty-first-century world. It isn’t very comforting to consider its implications. For example, television, film, and stage artists have discussed how AI can unfairly capture their images without fair recompense. These actors have every right to continue the discussion because AI robs these individuals of their likeness.
And yet, we’ve embraced AI. Much of the audience appeared to follow the dialogue on the screen for the entire one-hour performance. I certainly did. Was I being fair to these three talented actors on stage? Did I give my full attention to listening and hearing what Simon, Sarah and Scott were saying without looking at the screen all the time?
Ashamedly, I didn’t. I relied on AI to help instead of listening and hearing what the three were saying. And that again made me think further about my actions.
That’s when the significance of the title became clear. Will AI continue to hunt the essence of who humans genuinely are as it continues to creep slowly into the world we know today? What human voices will become the next prey?
Final Comments: I had no clue what this production was about when I knew it was coming. Even its title remained puzzling at first.
I left the theatre after the one-hour performance speechless for some time at some historical truths I discovered about the treatment of neuro-divergent people. I will not look upon toy company Hasbro and the games I used to play as a child in the same way ever again. Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries is a horrific time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
‘The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes’ becomes an important one to see. The production, thankfully, never becomes shaming and blaming. Instead, it sets out what it intends to do in the Programme Letter from the producing company Back to Back Theatre. It is a play about individual and collective responsibility. We are not self-sufficient.
That is the reason why you should go and see it.
Running time: approximately one hour with no interval/intermission.
‘The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes’ runs until January 28 at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto. For tickets: canadianstage.com or call 1-416-368-3110.
A BACK TO BACK THEATRE PRODUCTION presented by Canadian Stage
‘The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes’
Authors: Michael Chan, Mark Deans, Bruce Gladwin, Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price, Sonia Teuben
Directed by Bruce Gladwin
Composition: Luke Howard Trio (Daniel Farrugia, Luke Howard, Jonathan Zion)
Sound Design: Lachlan Carrick
Lighting Design: Andrew Livingston, bluebottle
Costume Designer: Shio Otani
Screen Designer: Rhian Hinkley, lowercase
AI Voice-Over Artist: Belinda McClory
Performers: Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price