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.