That’s Life on Lisgar

That’s Life on Lisgar is a story of family fissures and the intimate workings of life as a daughter of a Portuguese family in Canada. Based on the small and quirky world of Lisgar Street in the Little Portugal area of Toronto, Kayla Subica takes you back to her childhood and her quest to reunite with her estranged grandma. This one-woman show spins an interesting true story, although sometimes it doesn’t quite resonate with those of us unfamiliar to the personalities and spirit of Portuguese family life.

A sweet, poignant insight into life in a Portuguese-Canadian family

Subica is instantly likeable; she oozes warmth and charm, and has the perfect voice for storytelling. In the intimate and simple setting of the room, it feels like I’m about to catch up with an old friend. She starts from the beginning – with her earliest memories of childhood and growing up in Toronto’s ‘Little Portugal’ area, describing the chaotic family meals, the bickering between relatives and her incessant desire to be seated at the ‘adults’ table during big parties. Mostly, however, she reflects with adoration on her Avó Christina (Grandmother) whom, she recalls, seeing and hearing of when she was very young but then seemed to disappear from her life for 20 years. Throughout the monologue, Subica depicts various members of her family and suburb’s life – her Tias (aunts), her parents, other kids at her school and the nosey neighbours – each character is given a distinctive voice and dynamic expression.

The issue with storytelling monologues is that the story needs to be highly engaging and interesting to keep the audience entertained. Whilst the bittersweet and adventurous story of Subica reuniting with her grandmother has many twists and interesting turns, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I can imagine those of Portuguese heritage or those who have visited this area of Toronto would be able to relate much more to the characters in Subica’s life story, but as someone who hasn’t had much contact with Portuguese culture, there are parts of the performance that didn’t capture me.

Whilst Subica delivers a very theatrical performance, and there are plenty of interjections of comedy and music, she needs to add more dynamism and drama into the story being told to elevate this from a reflective story that feels like it’s being told by an friend over coffee to a truly powerful monologue that it has the potential to be. There were many twists and secrets that would have benefited from being delivered with slightly more punch.

Despite the lack of melodrama, That’s Life on Lisgar was still a sweet, poignant insight into life in a Portuguese-Canadian family with its fair share of secrets to uncover – and what’s more, Subica is just so friendly and absorbing that you’ll want to stay and share a Pastéis de Nata with her after.

Reviews by Sarah Virgo

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The Blurb

Delve into the cultish world of Toronto’s Little Portugal, as Kayla seeks to find her estranged Portuguese grandmother after 20 years apart. Playing multiple characters with warmth, humour and insight, Kayla is the perfect guide. ‘The talented actress held nothing back as she tumbled through this tale of their drawn out reunion... much rehearsed by Subica the actress and doused in wonderful detail by Subica the author’ (Kelsey Power, Chronicle Herald). ‘There’s a real warmth to Kayla Subica’s performance in her one-woman show… She is an engaging performer with a great singing voice’ (Kate Watson, Coast).