College and Lansdowne in Toronto? That’s where I live. Honestly, I don’t really like it. At Lansdowne you have the first evidence of suburbia; I live above a small proto-stripmall which houses a Harvey’s, a Domino’s Pizza and a 7-11. I buy cream and newspapers at the 7-11, the occasional veggie burger at Harvey’s and the very very occasional pizza from Domino’s. For some reason, pizza just doesn’t hold the thrill it used to. Nothing does.
Theatre doesn’t have much relevance anymore. Or so acclaimed playwright Darren O’Donnell tells us. The dynamics of unplanned social interaction, he says, are far more compelling than any play he could produce. So his latest show, A Suicide-Site Guide to the City, isn’t really a show; it’s an interactive chitchat about memory, depression, and 9/11, a dazzling whirl of talking streetcars, pizza and schizophrenia. And it’s hilarious.
O’Donnell’s artistic practice has evolved into ‘something as close to hanging out as you can come and still charge admission.’ With his theatre company, Mammalian Diving Reflex, O’Donnell has generated a series of ongoing events that induce interactions between strangers in public; the Talking Creature, Q&A, Home Tours, the Toronto Strategy Meetings and Diplomatic Immunities bring people together in odd configurations, ask revealing questions and prove the generosity, abundance and power of the social sphere.
Social Acupuncture includes the full text of A Suicide-Site Guide to the City and an extensive essay on the waning significance of theatre and the notion of civic engagement and social interaction as an aesthetic.
‘No other playwright working in Toronto right now has O’Donnell’s talent for synthesizing psychosocial, artistic and political random thoughts and reflections into compelling analyses … The world (not to mention the theatre world) could use more of this, if only to get us talking and debating.’ – The Globe and Mail