Bloom (Steam Powered Theatre) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

Because Fringe offers super late night performances, to really experience the festival for me means attending at least one.

So, I felt a sort of duty to make my way to the Bathurst Street Theatre for a performance beginning at quarter-to-eleven. The show happened to be Bloom. A company called Steam Powered Theatre is producing the work, which, I learned in line, is an adaptation of a book of poetry by Michael Lista that shares the title.

A few minutes into Bloom, I got a sense this play might be over my head. The first couple of minutes for example feature a performer doing a range of movements, slowly. It looked highly self-conscious.

And it’s not that I have anything against self-consciousness – quite the contrary, I love it on and offstage – but, when the actors began reciting poetry, almost like they were sending little postcards of language to one another across the stage, I felt like, “Am I really self-aware enough to follow this?”

It’s not so much that there are fancy allusions or ideas. The thing for me was, Bloom’s text seemed to jump so quickly from one impression to another.

The language is crafted in a whimsical, ear-catching way.

But, I was often left wondering if I knew enough of my own emotions or of the world or, specifically, of the history of the atomic bomb, to find meaning in the poet’s impressions. At times, I felt like the text was drifting high above me, like a cloud of little verbal soap bubbles.

As Bloom moves on though, I found myself drawn to the lighting (un-credited), wardrobe (credited to Danielle Demeny), and some of the stage pictures (how the actors look in relation to one another as they’re on the stage). The lighting for example, captures the warm colours of the desert setting in the southwestern U.S. Even enhancing them a bit – giving the show an almost otherworldly aura, at times. And, the clothes look vintage in fashion, with selections that allow a clean, simple look to reign.

Directors Nathaniel Bryan and The Collective arrange the performers in a way that allides suspicion between them that drew me in, and occasionally evokes the structure of the atom – a clever touch, because Bloom focuses on the birth of nuclear weapons (there’s a reference to “Little Boy” for example, a bomb dropped over Japan in WWII).

But without finding a story to follow, I had trouble getting into Bloom, really engaging with it. Yes, I was impressed by the text, and occasionally the staging stuck me as quite novel and cool. But, I guess what I’m trying to say is it was not entertaining to me.

All the same, if you can follow the demands of the language, or particularly enjoy cerebral challenges, which I think is really key to enjoying the work, you might really love Bloom.


Bloom is onstage at the Bathurst Street Theatre, as part of the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival. A company called Steam Powered Theatre is producing the play, which is an adaptation of a collection of poetry by Michael Lista that shares the title.

– Tickets are available at the door, and cost $10.

– Remaining performance times include Thursday, July 14, 12:00pm – 1:00pm; Friday, July 15, 9:15pm – 10:15pm; Sunday, July 17, 3:30pm – 4:30pm