Samkon and Francis Go Swimming (Part 1) is a charming, odd-couple comedy by Zocalo Toronto playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival. It’s excellent for a Fringe go-er looking for a straight-forward comedy that can still surprise you.
The titular heroes are Samkon, a mild-mannered, non-confrontational, immigrant from the DRC, and Francis, a fast-talking, bull-peddling, know-it-all. They are lumber delivery-men who arrive at the home of Susan, an 8-month pregnant guidette with an axe to grind, to find it (temporarily) unoccupied.
Shawn Lawrence play’s Francis with the sparkling self-assurance required to carry off a character so full of BS. The performance was engaging enough to make me want to yell “Shut up!” from the stands, which is fine praise. Francis always had the wrong thing to say and kept the scenes at a brisk pace.
Playing that level of self-assurance did leave Lawrence with a slight deficit in the human side of Francis’ character so I liked him less as a person and more as the source of much of the comedy.
Susan (Birgitte Solem) shows up at the end of the first third and kicks the action into high gear. She provides the tension for the remainder of the piece. She also gives the more stirring emotional moments of which lends it a necessary humanity past the charming comedy.
Emmanuel Kabongo, an immigrant from the DRC much like Samkon, plays him as likeably sedate and non-confrontational. It provides an excellent straight-man for Francis to bounce off. This also highlights the moments where he lets loose and the short musical interludes he provides are excellent.
Kabongo plays the straight man well but he also has some of the scripts best surprises. Several times I thought I knew what was coming next and what came instead was a more interesting and nuanced choice. This a credit to both Kabongo and the playwright/director (Vladimir Jon Cubrt)
Cubrt gives the actors plenty of repeated jokes and plays on established tropes but still keeps it fresh and funny between the three characters. There isn’t a vast development in the characters from start to finish which makes the directors ability to keep the comedy rolling even more impressive.
A final note must be give to the scenic design whose whimsical 2-D back drop provides the two entrances into the house. The set also establishes the silly and fun atmosphere for the show immediately but never detracts from the work of the performers or the writer.
- Samkon and Francis Go Swimming (part 1) plays at Venue 1 – Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Ave)
- Showtimes are: July 7, Saturday, 9:15 pm; July 8, Sunday, 6:30 pm; July 10, Tuesday 1:15 pm; July 11, Wednesday, 2:15; July 13, Friday, 3:30; July 14, Saturday 8 pm
- Advance tickets ($11 including service charge) are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 , or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street.
- Value packs are available for anyone planning to see at least 5 shows.