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"I am the Angel of your dissatisfaction"


So intoned a dismembodied voice on a loud speaker at the 40th anniversary of Toronto's New City Hall last Saturday (09/17/05). I nearly did not make it to the event as City of Toronto (read: government-run) events have an annoying tendency to be "family oriented" - which usually translates to "an inability to take risks".

So by the time I had arrived at Nathan Philips Square the performance Of Angels and Light by the Italian troupe Studio Festi had already started. And I must admit that I was happily surprised: the performance could best be described as a baroque rave, with fireworks (some of which did not go off), or dancers suspended from giant balloons (brilliant works of arts, these), fire dancers (who made the audience somewhat uneasy as the fire hazards created by the sets and by the hanging banners made the technical nightmare of actually STAGING this thing all the more obvious). Ultimately the packed Square could be seen turning this way and that to see where the next spectacle would appear.

And therein lay the biggest problem with this show.

According to City of Toronto website, this show was "(d)esigned to accentuate the architectural grandeur of Toronto's City Hall towers". Unfortunately, what it succeeded in doing was accentuating how badly the square is used as a public space generally. Performers could be seen on the porticos which surround the square but when was the last time any citizen of Hogtown was actually up on them? Wiith Peace Garden situated where it is the view was cut for about at 1/4 of the audience. Finally the lighting invariably ended up in the eyes of the viewers at they tried to see the spectacle.

All and all, it was a valiant attempt to showcase the arts in Toronto, but sadly, it also highlighted the inadequacy of our cultural spaces for displays of the performance arts.


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