Stage Door News

Toronto: The world premiere of “The Year of the Cello” is at Theatre Passe Muraille October 15-29

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Opening a soul-stirring and eclectic 22.23 season of programming, Theatre Passe Muraille and Music Picnic are thrilled to present the world premiere of THE YEAR OF THE CELLO. Co-created by TPM’s Artistic Director, Marjorie Chan, and artist producer of Music Picnic, Njo Kong Kie, THE YEAR OF THE CELLO runs from October 15 to 29 (opening October 18) in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

Previously workshopped with Cahoots Theatre (under the title Hello Cello, Goodbye Heart), Factory Theatre, and the Playwrights Lab at the Banff Centre for the Arts, THE YEAR OF THE CELLO is told by Wen, as she and her friend Li-An are forever changed by their encounter with the Cellist, whose music unlocks all that was left unspoken. Created to be accessible to both Blind and sighted audiences, the production is sound-led and told poetically alongside live cello music, culminating in a lament for love lost and a Hong Kong that once was. Starring Rong Fu (Charley’s Aunt/Shaw, Sherlock Holmes and the Raven’s Curse/Shaw, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Hello (again)) as Wen, she is joined by cellists Bryan Holt (VC Cello Duo) and Brendan Rogers (A Perfect Bowl of Pho) who alternate performances as The Cellist. The production is directed by Marjorie Chan with Njo Kong Kie creating the score and soundscape. Additionally, Echo Zhou (White Girls in Moccasins, Wah Wah Wah) brings her unique touch to the newly renovated Backspace theatre as the production designer.

“This play is set in early last century Hong Kong, which was in some ways more free and less free than today. It was a very different time with different social values. As well, the characters lived through outbreaks of the bubonic plague which periodically afflicted this port city. So, their journey of surviving and healing from a pandemic suddenly felt incredibly immediate.” Says Marjorie Chan, Artistic Director and co-creator, "With this piece, I also was experimenting with ways to engage music with a narrative text. The show didn't find its true voice until Kong Kie joined as the co-creator because the role of the music is so integral to its shape and form.”

"Music has the power to resurface memory, to remind you of emotions that you may have buried. This play is about how people heal and cope, and the music (the cello) plays a big role in this.” Adds Njo Kong Kie, co-creator.

The production is presented in-person in a relaxed format and will also offer a digital audio-only experience created with binaural sound technology, providing a 360-degree listening experience of the play. Binaural recording is a method of recording and arranging sound that creates an immersive 3-D stereo environment; it is best experienced through the use of headphones. The Digital version will be available after the in-person run and will be presented in collaboration with The Cultch's RE/PLAY: Digital Playground. More details about this digital version will be announced at a later date.

Performances of THE YEAR OF THE CELLO will run Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 PM with 2:00 PM matinees on Saturdays (including one additional Sunday evening preview at 7:30 PM on October 16). Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can-Afford at three price points, $10, $30 and $60 and are available now online at


A Theatre Passe Muraille and Music Picnic Co-Production

Presented in collaboration with The Cultch’s RE/PLAY: Digital Playground

16 Ryerson Ave.

October 15 to 29 (Opening October 18)

Running Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 PM with 2:00 PM matinees on Saturdays (including one additional Sunday evening preview at 7:30 PM on October 16)

Runtime: 55 min

Accessibility: The show's in-person and audio-only digital formats are blind-friendly, with in-person performances being presented in a relaxed setting. The digital format of this show is an audio experience created with binaural sound; the recording provides a 360-degree listening experience of the play.

Content warnings: Implications of abuse and suicide, descriptions of disease

Photo: Marjorie Chan and Njo Kong Kie.