Year to year, what’s presented in the Globe’s Shumiatcher Sandbox Series can vary wildly. Not in terms of quality — some years are certainly better than others, though they’re always consistently interesting — but rather in what you wind up going to see.
The mission of the Fusion Project is always the same: getting young artists, aged 16 to 19, to create and perform a new theatrical work, with the help of some Globe Theatre mainstays. Within that framework, the performers can come up with virtually anything, as you can imagine. Some years are more focused on choreography; last year felt more like series of vignettes linked together by similar aesthetics.
That approach made a lot of sense. Having a series of interconnected pieces that could still stand independently allowed every performer to have their moment. If the seven involved this year — Mattea Columpsi, Dalton Danaher, Fiona Duffy, Ruaridh MacDonald, Mike Muma, Trang Nguyen and Christina Persson — didn’t have that opportunity, it would be a real shame. There’s a lot of talent here.
This year, though, it’s a single narrative, but with no real bit players. Everyone gets showcased while they still make a balanced, coherent and interesting work.
By Candlelight, the title for this year’s piece, is a dark fantasy, literally and figuratively. A Victorian-era town is shrouded in perpetual darkness. The citizens depend on the mayor and his daily candle allotment to keep them safe from what the danger that lurks in the shadows.
The performers create the world in a variety of ways, including light design and well-conceived choreography pieces. The biggest break from what I’ve seen from the Fusion Project in the past is the inclusion of video elements, integrated seamlessly into the world of the play. Set work hasn’t always been as much part of the Fusion pieces, but it’s a welcome addition.
At 45 minutes, the piece explores a tidy arc and holds narrative interest completely. I was genuinely interested in the outcome of the situation, and that didn’t wind up disappointing me either. This is a very good year for the project, featuring a group that not only knows how to tell a story but also knows how to do it some interesting ways.
While the performers brought a lot of talent to the table — I remember being wowed by at least one of them at the most recent Canadian Improv Games, for example — having Daniel Maslany come on as director along with Judy Wensel who returns from last year certainly didn’t hurt. Their work in shaping the piece shows, and not just in the ever-present sound design that I’m pretty sure Maslany had a hand in.
The Fusion Project has two performances left: tonight and tomorrow, March 23. Go to the Globe Theatre website for more information.