You Should Have Stayed Home

Sit right down and let Tommy Taylor, Toronto writer and performer, tell his tale of the G20 Summit Riots one summer Toronto day back in 2010. Recounted in rich detail, Tommy Taylor’s adventure went viral on Facebook after he posted an 11,000-word missive, “How I Got Arrested and Abused at G20 Toronto”. And this note was written after Taylor (with then-girlfriend-now-wife Kate and good friend Ben) had spent over 30 hours in custody. What started as a peaceful protest at Queen’s Park in Toronto wound up being an out-of-control debacle that should have never happened.

Through both humour and harsh facts, Tommy brings the audience in for 75 minutes (no intermission) of a whirlwind series of events, broken down into 15 short parts. Each one a story, You Should Have Stayed Home’s moving tales are augmented through digital illustrations projected from his Macbook onto a wall. The sparse stage set contains a desk and chair, with Tommy seated at the desk for the duration of the play.

Tommy does a fantastic job of recalling the events as though they happened yesterday. His comparison of various police offers’ looks to certain TV and film actors is pretty funny too.

The harsh conditions at the detention centre are highlighted by a group of participants who together with Tommy, recreate the cramped conditions during one particular part of the production. A port-a-potty without its door further drives home the horrid tale of 48 hours of sheer hell.

Thousands of ‘criminals’ were taken from Front Street and brought to a former movie set studio outside of town, where cages were filled to overcapacity as men and women ranging in age from 16 to 78 were deprived of food, water, sleep, and basic comforts such as a door on the makeshift bathroom.

How is this allowed to happen in our open and free country? Not only basic needs but phone calls and legal aid were denied hour after hour, as tensions grew to the point of police officers not knowing what to do with the prisoners. “This is wrong. None of you should be here.” Although true to a fault, Tommy heard one officer declare this; most likely by this time he was freezing, starved, and dehydrated along with the others.

You Should Have Stayed Home
[Photo by Steve Dynie]

It broke Tommy’s heart when he discovered (several hours into the incident) that he was wearing a Canada t-shirt with the word FREEDOM written below the maple leaf emblem that day. To hear the stories of the now-infamous Novotel Hotel march is insane. Everyone from diners outside a nearby KEG Restaurant to German tourists were swept up and locked away during the G20 summit.

And for what? Even to this day, no enquiries into the protests were deemed necessary by either national, provincial, or local authorities. In fact, Toronto City Council voted unanimously in favour of thanking the Toronto police squad for their professionalism during the G20 summit. Scary thought: The police are basically lawless and can get away with something this huge. The irony is that this production was performed at the Firehall Arts Centre, right next door to the Vancouver Police Museum.

There’s currently a G20 Detainees Facebook page. If you’re planning on attending the remaining shows, visit Praxis Theatre’s website to volunteer to be on stage with Tommy as one of the fellow prisoners.

You Should Have Stayed Home is a co-production of the Firehall Arts Centre and Praxis Theatre, in association with the Original Norwegian and runs through October 5. There will be a special talkback panel with BC Civil Liberties Association’s Michael Vonn on Thursday, October 3, 8 pm.

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