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Tout Comme Elle

Wealth of Nations: Your Guide to Luminato

The all-encompassing Luminato festival bestows the world’s artistic riches on Toronto.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (photo by Johan Persson)

It’s always a bit of a challenge to write about Luminato. Where has been covering this summertime celebration of the arts and creativity since its inception in 2007. Back then, newness was the event’s hook, and a small coterie of marquee stars were easy to pluck from a list of about 100 projects, but we quickly discovered many of Luminato’s smaller happenings, from public art installations to author discussions, were equally deserving of our attention, and that of our culturally astute readers. It proved very difficult to pick and choose.

Luminato continues to grow as it reaches its fifth anniversary. Its sheer scope is perilous for the scribe who would attempt to pare its programming for quick consumption. That same largesse is a boon for eager attendees. More than 150 ticketed and free theatrical and dance productions, concerts, readings and art displays are booked from June 10 to 19, and while it would be impossible to see everything on the schedule, that certainly shouldn’t stop anyone from trying.

As with many arts festivals desirous to share a cultural vision, Luminato carefully selects its programming on the basis of a particular yet broadly interpreted theme. This year, Luminato’s connective tissue is the idea, the tradition, and the many modes of storytelling, reflected foremost in its headline production, One Thousand and One Nights. Created by British director Tim Supple and Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh, and performed in Arabic, French and English (with surtitles), this special commission weaves the enthralling yarns of Shahrazad into an ambitious, two-part drama that comes complete with its own intriguing backstory. Although the show’s rehearsals in Egypt were disrupted by that country’s recent revolution, last-minute accommodations were found in a Moroccan palace—perhaps an even more fitting space in which to craft such an opulent tale. Canadians spin yarns with universal appeal, too, in such on-stage offerings as Tout Comme Elle—an oratorio for 50 voices that delves into the relationship between mothers and daughters—and the provocative Andromache, which frames the Greek myth and 17th-century French play as a tragedy of lust and obsession.