Kissing Swinburne – 2010 Fringe Review

By Jenna Rocca

Kissing Swinburne was written by Mark Husiman and Claire Frances Muir (above) and also stars the real-life married couple as a love-lorn/naughty/bedridden/sadomasochistic same-sex Victorian couple. Directed by David Talbot and also stars Mary Krohnert, it follows the final, tortured years of Algernon Swinburne, a poet of questionable sanity, but definite appreciation of a good spanking.

Algernon was a real-life decadent poet known for his naughty, though inspired work. Muir plays him as a cheeky yet emotionally fragile man with a smirk and a zip in his step. The physicality of Huisman’s performances as Theo, Algernon’s companion, agent, and effectively his nurse, is impressive. The most refined stage-combat and choreography is gracefully applied to their squabbling over letters from Algie’s great lost love Mary Gordon (Krohnert).

This whimsical and light-hearted production works so well because of the over-the-top self-dramatization and deranged state of Algernon, thus the use of puppets for comic relief is wisely involved. The puppetry was joyous and playful, and though occasionally poignant, a perfect representation of Algernon’s lapsing sense of reality and hallucination.

While there are some equally touching and terrifying moments leading up to that inevitable kiss, this is not a play for the mild mannered. There are a lot of naughty bits, both physically and verbally. It wasn’t anything to make this reviewer blush, but be forewarned.

Kissing Swinburne is playing at Bread & Circus, in Kensington Market, 299 Augusta Ave.

Friday, July 9 – 6:45 pm

Saturday, July 10 – 5:00 pm

Sunday, July 11 – 8:30 pm