Binocular Theatre’s production of Jordan Tannahill’s Get Yourself Home Skyler James, directed by Ali Joy Richardson at the Toronto Fringe Festival is surely Fringe theatre at its best — bold, brilliantly performed, and centred around an urgent, timely story of love and resilience in the face of homophobia.
I was curious to see how this production would hold up against its script, which I read last year. I’ve also seen a production of a different play, Concord Floral, by the same playwright, so I admit that I was eager for the night to go well. Happily, Get Yourself Home Skyler James did not disappoint.
From her first moments onstage, Natasha Ramondino won me over with her hopeful, wry, and frequently hilarious performance. The small performance space ensured that her every gesture and expression were clearly visible to the audience. I felt like part of her world. The play took place in the basement of a KFC restaurant; it was staged in the basement of the 918 Bathurst Centre. At one point, we even heard some ambient noise from upstairs.
Although her story explored dark subject matter, Ramondino never lost the good humour that made her so likeable. Her character’s courage and strength shone even brighter against the background of intense, violent, institutionally-sanctioned homophobia that is still much too prevalent.
Best of all, Ramondino’s acting was so good that she seemed fully convinced of everything she told us. It was real to her, so it was real to me.
In my experience, truly excellent one-person shows are hard to find. I often end up feeling worried for the performer, especially when they’re addressing the audience directly. If the audience isn’t responding, and the performer starts to panic because they have nobody else to lean on, the play can go downhill pretty quickly.
Ramondino, however, didn’t speak to us; she was addressing the locked washroom door that her girlfriend was hiding behind. I applaud the wisdom of this setup. Ramondino spoke to her girlfriend (who was never seen or heard from) with such aching tenderness, it was impossible not to become invested in her story and their relationship.
Although the play’s dialogue always felt true to life, Get Yourself Home Skyler James also understood that words aren’t the only way to deliver a powerful moment. At the very beginning, before speaking a single syllable, Ramondino knocked several times on the washroom door. It was a very simple action, but it was executed with the amazing hopefulness and humour that, for me, defined this play.
No words were necessary. I knew I was about to see something extraordinary.
- Get Yourself Home Skyler James plays at 918 Bathurst Centre. (918 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased 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.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language.
- Thursday June 30th, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 1st, 08:00 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 08:00 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 08:00 pm
- Friday July 8th, 08:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 02:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 08:00 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 08:00 pm
Photo of Natasha Ramondino by Neil Silcox