“Loss sure is unpleasant, right?” – An Interview with Ben Hayward – director of “A Tournament of Lies” in the 2015 Toronto Fringe
by Bailey Green
A Tournament of Lies is a play of eight monologues spoken by the former friends and lovers of Alex, the deceased. Part of the challenge of directing the show, explains director Ben Hayward, lay in how to find each character’s connections to each other and their ties to Alex, the person who has left them all behind. “There’s a sense when someone dies young that there’s this lost life that never happened,” says Hayward, “and we wanted to explore how people cope with that.”
When Bald Monkey Theatre decided they wanted to perform Evan Brown’s play A Tournament of Lies, they began the search for their site-specific location—the action of the play takes place at a memorial. But as you can imagine, securing a funeral home for a play is as tricky as it sounds. They’re costly to rent, and having the owners on board with the idea was another challenge altogether. “We also wanted to avoid churches,” says Hayward, “because we didn’t want the piece to have any particular religious focus,” — the piece avoids discussing afterlife or heaven in any way. They ended up choosing the Multi-Faith centre at the University of Toronto for the reverent atmosphere, plus the challenge it would prove to transform it into a theatrical space.
Ben Hayward is involved with two shows this year—working as director of A Tournament of Lies with Bald Monkey Theatre as well as co-creator and cook for The Dinner Table with Fail Better Theatre (co-created and produced by Ali Richardson). Last year, Hayward played the elusive Andy Warhol in last summer’s Fringe success Andy Warhol presents: Valerie (presented by Fail Better Theatre.)
The bereaved cast of characters, “who are wacky and wide-ranging” says Ben, include: “a guy hung up on the dead girl, two people who work at a bottle recycling plant, a hipster cab driver, a drunk dude who hates funerals and her ex-lover.” One of the characters in the show is a diary entry, “which was an interesting abstract moment, everyone else is somehow connected to the sphere of the dead girl Alex, but this one is outside of that, so we had to figure out that voice,” says Ben. The bereaved are played by Owen Fawcett, Brandon Gillespie, Hannah Jack, Iain LaCourt, Sarah Marchand, Lindsey Middleton, Sarah Robbins and Jonathan Walls.
The Multi-Faith Centre feels like it could host a memorial—it’s has a sense of decorum, it’s non-descript and to a degree, clinical. But from a theatrical standpoint, there’s no backstage area, no hidden props on a table, nor is there a lighting grid. So it was up to the cast and crew to create the magic. “One of the best parts was transforming the space, and I don’t want to give away too much,” says Ben, “but for example we have a runner of LED lights around the room so that as the show proceeds and becomes more theatrical the lights change with that. My approach to the show has been about magic – that life is about those moments of magic and it’s about the things that don’t have logical or linear explanations.” They’re hoping to surprise their audience out of their initial thoughts. They want the audience to engage, to be invested and hopefully delighted.
Ben is constantly seeking ways of pushing the boundaries of theatre creation in a way that doesn’t need the proscenium arch. “I want to avoid making ‘movies on stage’, ” laughs Ben. When I ask Ben to describe A Tournament of Lies in five words, he pauses and says “loss sure is unpleasant, right?”
Alex’s friends and lovers gather at her funeral to make sense of her death. Once together, they compete between themselves to see who can grieve the best. How do you make sense of your life when the person who defined it is gone? A Tournament of Lies examines the unsavoury nature of grief, fragmentation of memory, and self-preservation.
By: Evan Brown
Company origin: Toronto, Ontario
Director: Ben Hayward
Cast: Owen Fawcett, Hannah Jack, Iain LaCourt, Sarah Marchand, Lindsey Middleton, Sarah Robbins, Jon Walls
Warnings: Mature Language
Where: (site-specific) Multi-Faith Centre (The Quiet Room)
July 02 at 09:00 PM sold out
July 03 at 09:00 PM sold out
July 06 at 09:00 PM sold out
July 07 at 09:00 PM sold out
July 08 at 09:00 PM sold out
July 09 at 09:00 PM buy tickets
July 10 at 09:00 PM sold out
Show length: 60min.