Rum And Vodka – Cart/Horse Theatre (Toronto Fringe 2008 Review)

Review by Adam Collier


Rum And Vodka felt like watching a really good episode of The Sopranos. The writing is terrific. The acting is excellent. Though the comparison also hints at what I felt was a flaw. I felt a safe detachment from what was going on; the action was on a very high level of entertainment but didn’t trigger emotions for me.

At the same though, to say I was curious about what was going to happen is a huge understatement.

The story picks-up with our narrator introducing himself: 24-years-old, married to a woman he doesn’t love but enjoys his time with. They have two toddlers – both girls – and he has a long job title in the Irish government, though his work sounds bureaucratic and he doesn’t sound very interested by it.

Family life sounds like it gives our narrator a wonderful sense of security. He doesn’t sound bored or not happy; it’s just that alcohol has gradually perspired more and more into his life. One Friday after a dispute his boss, alcohol consumption becomes an energetic self-destructive compulsion, which begins a wandering odyssey.

This odyssey is the emotional -equivalent of a perfectly matched heavyweight boxing fight. I had no idea what was going to win out; if it would be this guy’s lingering sense of dignity, sensations of guilt, or would it be his fear of going home (where he must face the reality that he has lost his job), and his compulsion for beer, spirits and sex.

Credit belongs to the writing and then to the acting.

The language is so clear I could see everything I heard. Rum And Vodka is about an hour-long, and is a monologue, but it could just as easily have been a five-act play staring twenty actors. That it’s not larger or convoluted speaks to the marvelous efficiency of Conor McPherson’s storytelling.

The acting by Mathew Gorman, who is very likable in this role, is terrific, save a couple of flaws. They were minor flaws; and as I say, because I was already a bit taken out-of the story because it’s in the past tense, they didn’t really break whatever theatrical illusion there was.

Near the end, but not at the end I felt the action deflated a bit. There’s a sequence about ten-minutes long about twenty-minutes before the very end of Rum And Vodka. It takes place at a house party is rich with action and emotion, but I didn’t fully pick-up on what it meant to the character. He came across as a bit passive, almost weary – couldn’t tell if this was acting choice or how the actor actually felt, but it seemed less inspired. The actual ending of the play – like most of it – demonstrates incredible nuance and understanding, so it was a bit of a let-down not to see it just then.


– Rum And Vodka is playing at the Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue; North of Dupont, East of Bathurst)
– It is on as part of the Fringe Festival and has one more showing on Sunday July 13 at 9:00PM
– Tickets are $10 at the door – more information on the Toronto Fringe web site