Water Choke (The Genuine Human Moment) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

waterchokeWater Choke by The Genuine Human Moment is playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace for this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival. The show directed by Ray Jacildo, and performed and written by Elliot Maxwell, is an exploration of masculinity. The piece sheds light on the emotional and physical consequences men face when they fall short of what a “real man” is.

I watched Elliot Maxwell stand behind a screen. He read out a suicide note, confessing he’s never known how to be a man. He walked out from behind the screen, grabbed a glass bottle and slowly poured water into a bucket center stage. He put the glass down, knelt in front of the bucket, and shoved his face inside. This image of drowning repeats throughout the entire show. I wanted to pull his head out of the bucket, but I knew that was the point. I should want to save him, but not be able to.

Water Choke is an experimental show. Different media are used throughout the performance. There are projections, live cameras, improvisation, audience participation, and various types of story-telling weaved together. I found the live camera especially interesting. It felt so intimate. Maxwell didn’t look like he was performing a monologue, he was confessing something private.

The different forms of storytelling made each segment of the show feel like a fresh perspective, even if the subject was the same. The performance was raw and very moving. Maxwell’s desire to talk about the toxicity of ideal masculinity felt deeply genuine. I was aware that much of the show was fictional, but I felt it was rooted in the truth.

This play should come with a few warnings. The first warning is that the front row is designated as a “splash zone”. The second warning is that there is a little bit of audience participation. The third warning is that the content explored in Water Choke is disturbing, and possibly even triggering for some viewers.

Water Choke was made to start a much needed conversation about the failings in ideal masculinity, sexual abuse, and suicide. Writer and performer Elliot Maxwell requests on the program that if you want to reach out to him, you can email him.

I really recommend this play. It’s a provocative, beautiful piece. I appreciated its balance between harshness and hopefulness. It’s something worth talking about.


  • Water Choke is playing until July 11th at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson 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.
  • Warnings: Strobe Light, Sexual Content, Graphic Violence, Mature Language

Remaining Showtimes:

July 05 at 03:30 PM
July 07 at 01:00 PM
July 08 at 11:15 PM
July 09 at 09:45 PM
July 10 at 04:00 PM
July 11 at 02:15 PM

Photo of Elliot Maxwell by Ciaran Meyer