Jillian Welsh’s Fringe show No Place takes place in a site-specific venue, St. George the Martyr Anglican Church on John St. The venue feels somewhat appropriate and out of place at the same time. Welsh begins the show by entering through a room with a teapot and a cup, and not for nothing does she pour tea very straight. She tries to hang her hat on a cross which receives a big laugh. The room contains one other significant prop, a deep crimson urn that may or may not contain the ashes of her grandmother.
The show takes the place of a confessional and is deeply and unabashedly autobiographical. Welsh describes her childhood growing up in Bruce County, her move to New York City to become a musical theatre actress, and is a eulogy for the heartwarming time that she spent with her grandmother. Welsh is a natural performer, (inspired by her grandmother who both literally and metaphorically gives her a voice), and has an easygoing clear delivery, emphatic but not shouty. For such an intimate venue, it is surprisingly not a very immersive show. Welsh does occasionally look members of the audience in the eyes, but spends much of the performance looking skyward, perhaps appropriate for a show set in a church.
The focus of the show is on her life, though it jumps around from story to story, time period to time period, before revealing its true narrative structure. Once it does so, the show reveals that while Welsh has been to many places, that its title is quite significant. In terms of the direction by Shari Hollett, it is first rate, though lighting changes are slightly unnecessary. The show would have been just as effective if it was delivered without artifice.
Slight criticism aside, the tearful audience gave Welsh a thunderous standing ovation and the performer/playwright seemed to be genuinely surprised and touched. There is one more performance on Sunday night, and this is definitely the place to be.