Plus One (Backyard Spaceship) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Gavin WilliamsBackyard Spaceship’s Plus One, playing at the Tarragon Theatre as part of The 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival has a pretty unique concept.

Gavin Williams — whose intended improv buddy got called away on serious comedy duty — will be performing with a different “Plus One” from the audience each night. His partner — as well as various elements he must incorporate into the show — are mysteries to him until show time.

For about two minutes I was both terrified and excited by the prospect of being chosen as “Plus One.” Don’t worry: unless you spoke with Williams’ original partner, Lindsay Mullan, you won’t be called up to improvise against your will — as fun as that may be!

This is kind of show which could, potentially, be a boring disaster. There was even an audience member assigned as a horn blower — tasked with feeling the audience’s vibe and blowing the horn if the comedy falls flat.

I’m happy to report that in my opinion, tonight’s performance was not flat. Williams’ chosen partner was an improv veteran — whose name sadly escapes me — and together they created spontaneous humour.

This humour ranged from a hilariously strange and mildly inappropriate one-word-at-a-time story, to a short skit incorporating one of the challenges in the envelope from Lindsay: using a romantic trauma from the Plus One’s past.

We also enjoyed a clever bit with Williams as a sassy, power-hungry cat demanding monogamy, and another where an audience member’s real phobia was incorporated. While the Plus One was “spot on” in her British accent and Brexit jokes, the flying spider (apparently a real thing in the UK?) skit was maybe a tad bit long.

While overall I enjoyed the show, I feel that a lot of the energy was carried by Williams’ Plus One. While he’s undoubtedly funny, he came across as a bit timid at times — and in fact, that seems to a part of his persona.

It’s certainly the kind of show that you could see again and again and experience wildly differently each time. The potential for chaos, a horn-blowing audience veto, and simple unpredictability make this a show I’d possibly check out again.

Details

  • Plus One plays at the Tarragon Theatre Solo Room. (30 Bridgman Ave)
  • Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
  • Content Warning: Mature Language.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through an alternate route. Please arrive early and speak with the House Manager.

Performances

  • Wednesday June 29th, 10:00 pm
  • Friday July 1st, 06:30 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 08:30 pm
  • Sunday July 3rd, 04:30 pm
  • Wednesday July 6th, 03:00 pm
  • Thursday July 7th, 08:00 pm
  • Saturday July 9th, 01:00 pm
  • Sunday July 10th, 05:45 pm

Photo of Gavin Williams provided by the company