In the darkened Anglican church, separated from a looming early-Victorian tower by an idyllic garden, we summoned the spirits and welcomed the macabre into our tell-tale hearts.
Nestled at the bottom of Grange Park, the city’s bustle was a two-minute walk away, but it could have been two-hundred years away as the Luminato arts festival presented “Gothic Toronto: Writing The City Macabre”, an evening of six local authors – among them Ann-Marie MacDonald and Andrew Pyper – reading freshly-commissioned works which shone a black light on Toronto’s neighborhoods.
The spirit of Edgar Allan Poe is everywhere in this year’s Luminato festival – this year marking the 200th anniversary of his birth. Earlier in the week, there was another reading of gothic fiction by assorted writers, and an evening with Coraline author Neil Gaiman, reading from his latest – The Graveyard Book. There was also a Poe-inspired cabaret, and “Nevermore” – a Poe-inspired theatre piece.
But tonight, as the lights dimmed in St. George the Martyr church, it was all about Toronto-the-sinister. For me, Andrew Pyper’s “When You Were Beautiful” dug deepest. Set on a dodgy stretch of Queen Street West, this short tale of memory and loss was spun with equal parts eeriness and sadness.
When the evening ended and I was back walking among the mortals, I could swear there was a disembodied voice whispering in my ear, trying to lure me back into the desperate depths where Toronto’s darkest souls cry for release.