Review: Kim’s Convenience (Soulpepper Theatre)

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee & Clé Bennett in Kim's Convenience

Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience steals the stage at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre

What I really want my whole review for Kim’s Convenience, now playing at Soulpepper, to say is “The show is fantastic, you should really go see it.”  Unfortunately, I suspect that kind of thing won’t cut it.  So, I’ll work on telling you about the piece, but just remember, it’s wonderful, and you should go see it.

As I walked to my seat I looked up and saw a convenience store on stage. Not a suggestion of a convenience store with a few props to give us the idea of the setting, it was a full-on convenience store, possibly every convenience store I’ve ever been in.  At the same time, the terrific sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne provided context before the show started with sounds of muted traffic ‘coming from outside’.  The combination set the stage for a very naturalistic piece of theatre.

The piece, a smash hit at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, has often been spoken of in the context of an immigrant experience. Many people I spoke to about the piece in the summer talked to me about how the work spoke to them as Asian-Canadians or as 1st generation Canadians.  In the artist’s note Choi says “Kim’s Convenience is my love letter to them [his parents] and all 1st generation immigrants who call Canada their home.” I can’t speak to it from that perspective (although the previous Mooney on Theatre review by editor Tiffany Budhyanto does), I’m a 36 year old white chick whose family has been in Canada for countless generations. So that’s where my experience is coming from. I assure you, I loved it every bit as much as the people I talked to.

There was so much to love about this piece. The acting was fantastic, and the writing superb. It’s an exceptionally funny script and the actors have the comedic timing down pat.  None of that comes at the expense of serious moments though. Bring kleenex to this one, there’s a darn good chance you’ll be weeping.

All the actors provided wonderful performances, I couldn’t single one out.  Clé Bennett, Ins Choi, Esther Jun, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon were each captivating in their own way.

Ultimately, for me this was a story about relationships. The things people do for those they love, the way they treat those same people and how relationships can change. It’s also about the relationships we have with people we don’t know, and the relationships we have with our surroundings. These are explored with honesty, integrity and love – warts and all.

I honestly can’t think of a single person I know who would not enjoy this. That’s a rarity. If you’re looking to introduce someone to theatre, this is a great show to start with. It’s not intimidating or inaccessible, but it is smart, funny and thought-provoking.

In the same way it was near-impossible to get tickets for this show during Fringe because of the sold-out crowds, I suspect it’s in your best interests to get your tickets for this one soon.  There are only three weeks left, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out here too, in fact, there are already several sold out and limited seating available dates, so, really, hurry or you’ll miss it.

Kim’s Convenience plays until February 11 at Soulpepper Theatre (In the Distillery District, 55 Mill Street)
– Shows run Monday to Saturday at 8pm, with additional matinees on Saturdays at 2pm.  Matinees are also available on a selection of days during the week, see the online calendar for the show for details.
– Ticket prices range from $22 to $68 (plus service charge)
– Tickets are available by calling the box office at 416-866-8666 or online

Photo of Paul Sun-Hyung Lee & Clé Bennet by Cylla von Tiedemann

3 thoughts on “Review: Kim’s Convenience (Soulpepper Theatre)”

  1. This week was a wonderful theatre week for me, two great plays, this one, and The Golden Dragon.

    It’s hard to imagine two different plays than these, which made seeing them back to back particularly interesting.

    Also interesting? The sound designs, which were fantastic in both, were both done by Thomas Ryder Payne. I’m fascinated by the idea of these two opposites being designed in tandem by the same person.

  2. This review has nailed it ALL right. The play spoke to me, a 12th generation Canadian as much as it would to a first generation new immigrant to Canada. I cried, I laughed and I enjoyed this play like no other I can recall. BRAVO!

  3. Amazing, amazing show! I cried and laughed so hard that I cried again. Left the show wanting to know more about the characters. What would happen the next day when Alex assisted Janet? Would they sell the store or would Jung take over? I hope Ins expands the play as 90 mins was not enough. Well done!!

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