Review by Sarah Higgins
I Want to Tell You Something
by Caroline Sniatynski
rEvolver Festival, The Cultch
I want to tell you that as I made my way into the Founder’s Lounge at The Cultch for Caroline Sniatynski’s one woman show, I wondered what kind of things I was going to be asked to share in front of everyone. Lining up my secrets, I was getting a little nervous…but I needn’t have worried. All she wanted from me was a story.
I Want To Tell You Something is a beautifully crafted, grippingly performed piece exploring what makes us: stories. From bedtime stories to myths to musings, Sniatynski (with direction and dramaturgy from Gina Allen and Emily Pearlman) wove together many different narratives to present an experience steeped in love—love for the stories, and for those sharing them.
I had never been to the Founder’s Lounge, which is just off the hallway on the way to the Historic Theatre in the Cultch. But with the doorways curtained off and soft lighting, largely from lamps and a flashlight, the lounge became an intimate, gentle space for an intimate, gentle performance. The set was minimal, but inherently theatrical. When telling her own stories, Sniatynski used a chair, pieces of paper she folded into boats, and a tape recorder. She incorporated audio of family stories recorded by her parents and brother throughout her own anecdotes. She interacted with these voices, responding in perfect timing with the recordings as if in conversation. It felt, at times, like a theatrical podcast, bringing to the stage the level of intimacy found in radio storytelling. When she told the Greek myth of Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon who was sacrificed to bring the wind back so the Greek fleet could sail for Troy, Sniatynski pinned the paper boats into strings held together by fishing wire and clothespins and hung them off a fishing wire laundry line. These boats became Iphigenia’s harbour, the lynch-pin of her story, the reason for her sacrifice. The show ended in a final moment of pure theatricality when the boats set sail for Troy—but I won’t tell you how.
The deft interweaving of the stories—moving seamlessly from Iphigenia’s myth to Sniatynski’s personal anecdotes—was powerfully done; one of the strongest parts of the show, exemplifying Sniatynski’s control as a storyteller. Engaging us with bite-sized stories told with visual language and emotional investment, Sniatynski knew when we needed a pause to settle into the story, or some particular movement to enliven it, or when we needed to share our own stories.
So it came, at last, to the sharing. We all wrote something down. (I shared my dad’s bedtime stories). Sniatynski distributed the somethings so no one ended up with their own. Then she turned the lights off, and we started to read. Sharing stories in the dark with someone who has just shared so much of her own is, to say the least, empowering.
Look. I want to tell you something. Go see this show and feel it for yourself: those bursts of theatricality, those layers of intimacy, those beautifully interwoven stories.
I Want To Tell You Something plays as part of the rEvolver Festival at The Cultch. For showtimes, visit www.upintheairtheatre.com
Sarah Higgins is into her second year of her Creative Writing Masters of Fine Arts at UBC. She’s foremost a playwright, and has had work produced at both edges of the country—from Little Mountain Lion Productions in Vancouver to a recent show in the Halifax Fringe festival.