The Road to Mecca
If it’s true we all need someone to watch over us, just wait until you see what Diana LeBlanc as Helen and Shannon Taylor as Elsa do for one another in the Soulpepper Theatre Company production of ‘The Road To Mecca.’

A Glowing Stage Gift

‘What if I have come to the end?’ asks an uncertain Helen half way through the play. It’s a critical question that must be answered because when any kind of end draws near—we need assurance that our symbolic Mecca was a worthwhile destination regardless of what anyone else believes.

It’s this kind of thematic reasoning that paves the way in Athol Fugard’s conflicted and deeply endearing tale of friendship, love and awakening.

Darkness has descended upon Helen’s home in Karoo, South Africa where she has one friend who can save her life. The widow’s back yard is filled with life-like sculptures that have embodied her artistic pursuit despite the mind and body not functioning like it was once able. The controversial creations have disrupted a community yet one woman’s passion in life remains untethered.

Elsa (Shannon Taylor), a school teacher battling with her own demons, is troubled by the contents of her letter and makes a surprise visit to better understand the issues facing her aged confidant.

On the same day of Elsa’s arrival, a pastor widower, Marius, stops by for a shepherding call to ensure the safety of Helen’s future. An emotionally dramatic tug of war ensues over what’s right, what’s wrong, hidden objectives and the fundamental need for expressionism.

Diana Leblanc’s return to the stage is perhaps theatre’s brightest light in the city this month. Only when you see her character’s state of impetuous confusion do you lament the fact there are not more roles for actors like herself. Helen’s problem is all our problem and Leblanc’s immensely tender performance is like a visit to grandma’s house that you never wanted to end.

Could this be David Fox’s greatest role of his career? The inherent righteousness he imbeds into this role makes it impossible to determine if the character’s motivation is a pious act or driven by self-interest. You want to like Marius for his good deeds but can’t be sure if you should.

Soulpepper Theatre’s beautifully wrought presentation is an intricate and dazzling work of art with director David Storch radiantly capturing contention on the various levels in which it prevails.

Prejudice, misconceptions, and personal freedom illustrate the struggles that will forever dominate our existence. This glowing stage gift serves as a sentimental reminder that it need not be that way.

Review by Steven Berketo

THE ROAD TO MECCA by Athol Fugard May 5 – May 28, 2014 YOUNG CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto TICKETS $29.00 – $74.00 416-866-8666 www.soulpepper.ca CAST David Fox, Diana Leblanc, Shannon Taylor DIRECTOR David Storch

6 Readers Commented

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  1. Gavin R. on May 12, 2014

    I was impressed how well designed the set was. They really went all out on this one. Nice to see a three new faces on the Soulpepper stage as well.

  2. Connie on May 12, 2014

    I didn’t get Elsa’s hostility towards Helen. Frustration, I get that, but a bit too harsh for me. I recommend this show to anyone who has aging parents that wants to make it a family outing. You won’t regret it.

  3. Jessica on May 12, 2014

    I’m going to see this show next week, I’ve heard good things about it from my friend at work. I hope it’s worth the hype.

  4. Penny on May 13, 2014

    My friend had to keep the tissue handy during the candle scene at the end. This one triggers triggers different emotions in people. If you haven’t seen the movie, wait until after the play to see it.

  5. K.P. on May 13, 2014

    This is such a different flavour of theatre for our city that’s addicted to the big musicals. I wish more plays made you think like this one.

  6. Trish and Jamie on May 15, 2014

    I liked the contrast between Elsa’s decisions of the past and Helen’s decisions of the present. All around good writing. Would have liked to have seen more characters in the story but c’est la vie.

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