The performance area of Shawn Hitchins’ Survival of The Fiercest, (staged at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times) felt more like an upbeat bar than a theatre performance.
Patrons sipped on drinks, chatting animatedly among each other. The music was peppy, and the lights sort of disco-esque with a glittering ball twirling round and round.
The performance had an opening act – Lindy Zucker, a friend of Shawn Hitchins – in a witty and entertaining critique of a book that Hitchins allegedly forced her to read: The Woman I was Born to Be an autobiography by Susan Boyle of Britain’s Got Talent fame.
At first, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I’ve never seen a performance of a book critique. But as she got going, I found myself laughing hysterically. To give you a taste of the flavour of her critique she compared reading the book to mental papercuts.
She then proceeded to read passages pointing out key phrases and questioning some of the extremely odd things that Boyle writes about her life.
By the time Hitchins came on the stage we were definitely warmed up. His performance was a mix of observation, song and dance – urban truths mingled with fantasy and jokes.
Many top 40 favourites from times past and present made cameos: among them Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Alanis Morissette. The lyrics were all slightly modified (“I got a feelin, that’s tonight’s gonna be an average night”) to fit the needs of the show. Other pop culture and Toronto references such as Eat Pray Love and Twitter and even the TTC made an appearance.
Although frivolous and just a funny comic routine on the surface level, Hitchins touches on something that we all face everyday, particularly in the disconnected metropolis that is Toronto. Although we spend our days surrounded by other people – we are increasingly alone without intimacy and connection.
However intimacy is important and it is normal to crave it, particularly in a city as cold and hardened as Toronto. My favourite part about the show was that Hitchins lightened up the message – making it easier to digest but ultimately more effective and impactful than a doomsday-esque statement about where society is going.
Although this was only a one-time performance, Hitchins is going to Fringe in Edinburgh to perform this, and is in the process of raising funds for his trip. I’m sure he will do well there.
Survival of The Fiercest played at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street) on July 27, 2011 at 8pm
In photo: Shawn Hitchins. Photo credit to Run Ginger Run Productions