Toronto’s Bald Monkey Theatre formed with the intention “to simply create stuff we would pay to see.” Their production of Evan Brown’s A Tournament of Lies at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival is a success beyond this simple premise and is a must experience for anyone who loves immersive, emotional, honest and funny theatre.
The show presents us with people from the life of Alex Young gathering at her funeral to make sense of her untimely death, and in the process make sense of themselves. From the moment I entered the venue I was present, more than I knew, at the funeral. Being greeted by a solemn young man in a suit, I was directed to the third floor of the venue where a placard showed moments from Alex’s brief life. It’s these special touches that affirm my love for the ingenuity of the artists who participate in The Fringe Festival and Bald Monkey nails it with their presentation of A Tournament of Lies.
I want to single out one stand-out performance, but I truly cannot do that here. Owen Fawcett, Hannah Jack, Iain LaCourt, Sarah Marchand, Lindsey Middleton, Sarah Robbins, and Jon Walls each brought a sincerity to their character so that, at points, I felt as though I knew Alex and was grieving along with the performer. It is their individual strength, that leads to the success of the performance as a whole and director Ben Hayward deserves mention for that as well.
Speaking to the production, the otherwise drab décor of the room is brought to life with simple flourishes. The impromptu dance routine, the quirky cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, the belting of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, and the simple plucking of violin strings all combine with subtle lighting choices to allow enough of a visual change so as to not distract, to keep the focus on the actors, and let them drive the show.
It is a very intimate venue and being somewhat of an introvert I was a bit unsettled by my proximity to the production and the psuedo-theatre-in-the-round approach, My initial concern was washed away within minutes of “curtain.”
A Tournament of Lies sets out to examine the nature of grief and the definition of a life and does so with the diverse truth of each well-played character, leading me to the conclusion that no matter how well we think we know someone, we know ourselves even less. And with excellence, this show reminded me that is okay.
- A Tournament of Lies is playing until July 10th at the Multi-Faith Centre (The Quiet Room). (569 Spadina Avenue)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
- Audience advisory: Mature language
- Friday the 3rd at 9:00pm
- Monday the 6th at 9:00pm
- Tuesday the 7th at 9:00pm
- Wednesday the 8th at 9:00pm
- Thursday the 9th at 9:00pm
- Friday the 10th at 9:00pm
Photo provided by the company.