After a successful run on Broadway, Mirvish brings film star and author Carrie Fisher to Toronto for the Canadian premiere of her one-woman confessional show Wishful Drinking, now on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre through August 21.
Much can and has been said of Carrie Fisher; actress, author, mental-illness survivor, recovered alcoholic, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, cultural icon, tabloid fodder and unwitting masturbatory aide for a generation of sci-fi geeks the world over.
I suppose when, at the tender age of 19, one stars in a film like Star Wars that unexpectedly explodes to become a cultural phenomenon and one of the highest grossing science-fiction franchises in history with legions of devoted fans, one’s hope of a “normal” life is thrown out the window.
Of course, being the daughter of famed singer, Eddie Fisher and movie star, Debbie Reynolds and growing up in the bizarre and quirky microcosm that is Hollywood doesn’t really lend itself to any sort of “normal” upbringing in the first place.
Through the course of her life, along with her career successes like Star Wars and Postcards from the Edge, Ms. Fisher has also battled alcoholism and substance abuse, depression and bi-polar disorder and survived to tell the tale in her book and one-woman confessional show both titled Wishful Drinking.
What I find truly remarkable about Carrie Fisher is her ability to find the humour in her life experiences. She says unabashedly, “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true.” Throughout the course of the show she delivers a series of comedic anecdotes about various episodes in her incredible life.
Despite being the source of her iconic status, I’m slightly disappointed that the Star Wars period of her life doesn’t loom as large in the show as I expected. I can’t help but think that the notoriously litigious nature of George Lucas is the source of Ms. Fisher’s careful treading when it comes to the subject.
It is Lucas, after all, who owns the rights to her likeness and has merchandised it to unprecedented levels (and astronomical profits) in the thirty-some-odd years since the debut of the Star Wars franchise.
In one segment, Ms. Fisher explores the range of licensed Star Wars products that bear her likeness including a shampoo, action figures, a bar of soap and even a life-sized Princess Leia sex doll. Ms. Fisher seems to have come to a place where she’s able to take it all in stride with good humour. Donning a wig with Princess Leia’s signature hairstyle she exclaims, “If someone offers to make you into a Pez dispenser … DO IT!”
In the second half of the show Ms. Fisher explores her struggles with alcoholism, depression, bipolar disorder and mental illness in a completely irreverent manner.
While she hints at the harrowing nature of her experiences, briefly talking about going to rehab and her experiences with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) leading to the loss of four months’ worth of memory, I feel as though she only skims the surface of the subject.
My show-going buddy Marty and I both agreed that we thought the show would be more compelling if she spent more time exploring these subjects in a little more depth. On the other hand, that would probably also make the show less fun.
Ms. Fisher delivers her material in a deliberately scattershot style. In fact, Marty initially thought that she was just randomly riffing on themes in an unstructured way. It was only after I pointed out the large teleprompter at the rear of the auditorium that he realized how tightly scripted the show actually was.
I find the channeling of this scatterbrained persona to be an interesting choice as it does lend an air of authenticity to the performance but I also feel it sometimes affects the rhythm of the performance and her comedic timing.
Although her experiences are probably far too outlandish and idiosyncratic for them to be considered “relatable” to most of us in the audience, she delivers the show in a lighthearted, irreverent, self-deprecating manner that is surprisingly devoid of bitterness.
Carrie Fisher definitely comes across as likeable and sitting in the audience at her show almost feels as if you’re having a great chat over coffee with a friend, an eccentric friend perhaps, but a friend with some great experiences and some incredibly entertaining stories nonetheless.
- Carrie Fisher in Wishful Drinking, Created and performed by Carrie Fisher, directed by Tony Taccone, Scenic, Lighting and Projection Design by Alexander V. Nichols.
- Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West, Toronto
- Jul 12 – Aug 21, 2011
- Performance Schedule: Tuesday-Saturday 8PM, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 2PM
- Tickets: $35 to $99
- www.mirvish.com or call Ticketking at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333
– Carrie Fisher in Wishful Drinking Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann