The Pirate Queen of the Stars (megnpetemakecoolstuff) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

Sarah Lynn Strange in The Pirate Queen of the Stars

Space is really freakin’ big, and the space pirate Vega pretty much rules it all. But when a secret message draws her back to a ship from her past, she’ll have to arm herself with enough finger-lasers to confront more than one shadow of her past. The Pirate Queen of the Stars (megnpetemakecoolstuff) is a rollicking space adventure that’s currently playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

The Pirate Queen of the Stars was a really nice way to end my night. It’s a retro space adventure that prides itself on silliness, and it’s a fun setup: four characters with competing goals stuck together on a dead spaceship in the middle of space, with a strange power wreaking havoc in the wings. It opens with a smoke machine that gets liberal use throughout the show (it’s fun every time, whee!), and it has a lot of flashing, sparkly lights that add to a lot of the winkingly low-budget humour.

It’s also a musical, with songs that tend to oscillate between gags and heartfelt monologues, without much variety beyond that. Still, they’re likeable songs that I’d like to give another listen to, should a recording ever surface anywhere online.

The characters all fall into sort of broad archetypes: the all-business captain, the robot learning to love, the lusty officer. It’s an intriguing set of characters that garner a lot of laughs, though I did find myself wanting a little more depth in places. Megan Phillips is super cool as Vega, the titular pirate queen, and I totally buy her as a commander–but I’m not sure the character herself is that interesting beyond the stock elements that compose her.

Rounding out the cast is lovesick robot R.I.G.E.L., played sweetly by Daniel Abrahamson; the petulant Lord Rastaban Starsmiter (Seth Dabrinsky), who wrings every inch of fun out of his songs; Eridani, played by Sarah Strange, who has a gut-punchingly gorgeous voice; and Vega’s rival Captain Lance Thruster, played with a hilariously lusty and weirdly romantic boisterousness by Paul Barnes.

At the heart of the story is the unrequited love of R.I.G.E.L. for Vega, which is by far the most emotionally affecting storyline. I really admired the way it wrapped up–without giving too much away, it avoids the storybook ending, but without giving way to bleakness.

I’m not totally sure why, despite all these promising elements, I didn’t feel super invested in the storyline. To me, The Pirate Queen of the Stars was sort of like a summer popcorn flick: there for a good time, but not necessarily something that will stick with me long-term.

In my view, it never really rises beyond the archetypal elements that compose it, and I didn’t feel that it had a particularly unique voice or tone–but I laughed often, I had a good time, and I enjoyed myself. The standing ovation at the end of the night clearly indicates that there’s something going right at the Factory Mainspace, and if you’re a fan of silly sci-fi romps, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed to see this show.

Details:

  • The Pirate Queen of the Stars plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst St)
  • Tickets are $10 at the door, $12 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: Fog or Haze Effects, Mature Language, Sexual Content.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible by use of an alternate route. Please arrive early and speak with the House Manager.

Performances:

  • Friday July 1st, 07:00 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 11:00 pm
  • Monday July 4th, 03:15 pm
  • Tuesday July 5th, 08:15 pm
  • Wednesday July 6th, 05:15 pm
  • Friday July 8th, 01:45 pm
  • Saturday July 9th, 05:45 pm

Photos by Paul Aihoshi, Design by Jon Blair.