Little Pricks (RUBE. CO) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

little Pricks written in a worn typewriter fontI just got back from the show Little Pricks by RUBE CO. at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse for the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival. Little Pricks, directed by Rosanna Saracino and written/performed by Denise Norman, is about Norman’s experience with the chronic condition MS (Multiple Sclerosis). The show, dubbed an absurdist reality, was an emotional hit. I left the theatre in tears, and I know I was not the only one.

Little Pricks combines personal story-telling from Norman with physical performance that focuses on the feelings of struggle and confusion. The physical performance is primarily done by Nealee Bradshaw, Layla Cornacchia, and Jensen Porter. They danced on stage, until Norman arrived. When she crossed the threshold, the three of them orbited around her.

Bradshaw, Cornacchia, and Porter dipped between two different roles: the medical professionals that Norman met with, and the demons that followed her. As the doctors, they regurgitated facts and diagnoses at Norman, ignoring her questions and responses. As the demons, or as Norman calls them “dragons”, they clung to her, pulling at her limbs and whispering in her ear. They were best as the dragons, rushing around the stage, barely saying anything. With every tug at Norman, they made sure she knew they were around at all times.

Norman was incredible. She pulled me into her performance when her foot touched the stage. When she smiled, I smiled. When she held back tears, I cried. She led the way through her story and I willingly followed.

I chose to attend this performance for personal reasons. My father has MS, and although his symptoms are not identical to Norman’s descriptions, her experience still felt all too familiar. I recognized the frustration and confusion that Norman felt, bombarded with information from doctors and nurses. I recognized the look of someone who has to wait for what feels like forever only to be rewarded with an answer that helps with nothing. I could see the emotional labour that I have seen before, and it was honest and heart-breaking.

Little Pricks received a standing ovation. It was a beautiful performance. I’m heartbroken, but thankful that I got to see it. I would highly recommend it.




  • Little Pricks plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. George St)
  • Tickets are $12 at the door. 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 Warning: Mature Language.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible.


  • Thursday June 30th, 07:00 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 09:15 pm
  • Sunday July 3rd, 02:45 pm
  • Tuesday July 5th, 12:45 pm
  • Wednesday July 6th, 04:00 pm
  • Friday July 8th, 07:30 pm
  • Sunday July 10th, 01:45 pm

Photo credit: Photo provided by company