Who: Unit 5 Theatre Collective
What: The Beauty We Carry
Length: 60 minutes
Where: Bridgeworks (200 Caroline Street North)
When: July 21-31 as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival
Tickets: $12 + $1.75 fee at https://boxoffice.hftco.ca/event/866:601/
When walking into The Beauty We Carry, you’re greeted with questions projected across the stage backdrop. Intimate, vulnerable questions, like “What would you change about how you were raised?” Following that warm-up, Karie Richards doesn’t miss a beat, opening her production by walking on stage, sitting down, and asking her audience the timeless question, “Who are we?”
The Beauty We Carry has an unconventional storyline, one that’s hard to describe without experiencing it for yourself. Speaking as if being interviewed, Richards takes on dozens of personalities with varying experiences, all speaking on their relationship to grief, and the loss of a family member or loved one. Richards sits alone on a stage with only a chair, small table, notepad and marker, occasionally pausing as the lights dim to hum a song, working as a transition from one character to the next.
Richards describes these stories as ones she’s collected from various interviews in her lifetime, but how she conducted the interviews remains a mystery. It’s a project that was intended to spark empathy and connection, sharing vulnerable experiences about commonly felt hardships, but often feels too busy to provide the deserved attention to any specific one. Richards tells a dozen tales, if not more, which fuzzies the audience’s focus and makes it difficult to become emotionally invested in the stories being told.
I couldn’t quite decipher the underlying meaning behind the project, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to. This production may have a very specific meaning for Richards, or, like the structure of the piece itself, it might lean more abstract. Either way, The Beauty We Carry seems to be a piece of art created for theatre-goers to experience for themselves, and themselves alone.