Play Review: The Space Between

The Space Between is a love story set against the cruelty of apartheid South Africa. Written and performed by Simeon Taole, it’s a dramatic work that combines monologue, video projection and musical accompaniment. Inspired by a true story, The Space Between spans across a global range of feeling.

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“I have vividly imagined our reunion countless times, shifting myself into infinite forms that would not only exceed her expectations, but bridge the cold reality of time apart.”

Winston (Simeon Taole) is a young man from the former Bophuthatswana, South Africa. At least, that’s his preferred name for simplicity’s sake. (As he so poignantly puts it, Winston’s much easier to for us arrogant Westerners to pronounce than his real name.) From the beginning of the play, Winston finds himself caught up in a discourse of identity – a discourse that, for better or worse, carries on without regard for consent. We don’t choose our mother land or mother tongue. Likewise, it seems Winston’s identity is largely confounded by circumstance: situations that, for a 9 year old, seem totally unfair. And understandably, so.

“We met in the morning of my youth when the world was still a place of firsts.”  Celeste. Like a synecdoche for the whole of her tenderness, the name alone is enough for Winston to conjure fond memories and dreams of a shared future. Winston met Celeste on a trip to America and they quickly grew attached, skipping the crush phase for something a lot like love. On his return to South Africa, the two remained close by exchanging letters. Yet circumstance finds a way in, driving them apart.

“The nature of ‘the space’ between us all is that it is far-reaching and still very much relevant today. Ultimately, the play asks us a single question: Is love enough to bridge that distance?”

Circumstantially, Winston and Celeste live worlds apart. Celeste’s American family isn’t even sure where Bophuthatswana is. Winston’s parents are skeptical about Celeste’s tolerance: will her acceptance fade with time? And during apartheid, international love isn’t exactly the more immediate issue to face. Throughout the play, Winston has visions of raids and the death of his parents. He’s harassed and beaten at school. But still, his thoughts remain focused, hopefully fixed on Celeste. As Taole explains: “The story takes place against the historical backdrop of apartheid, but it is not a story about racial division or political unrest; rather, it is one of unrelenting hope and the innocence of young love.” As a playwright, Taole reveals the connection between physical and emotional closeness: they’re not totally correlative. Moreover, Winston and Celeste’s reunion speaks to the power of emotion over the seemingly deterministic weight of the physical space between them.

Overall, The Space Between is a vibrant, enthusiastic performance, tapping into the youthful exhilaration of love stories and songs alike.

The Space Between recently played at Aki Studio, Daniels Spectrum February 25th – March 6th. Additionally, the show is set to play March 17th and 18th at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. For more information and to buy tickets, visit thespacebetweenproject.com.