The subject of bullying has recently come to a head in the cultural zeitgeist. Beasts of the Theatre’s production Grey Ground for the Toronto Fringe Festival is a look into the anatomy of a bullying incident and challenges its audience to look deeper than the surface.
Molly (Caitie Graham), an awkward 16-year-old high school student who has endured years of bullying, reaches a breaking point and viciously attacks another student. In the aftermath of the attack, Molly is shunned by her peers and made out in the media to be a monster. Only Joseph (Ryan Bainbridge), a down-on-his-luck journalist is determined to listen to Molly’s side of the story and bring it to light.
Lindsay Finnie’s script is poignant and often feels intensely personal. It challenges the audience to look at the root causes of bullying as it shows us the effect it can have on its victims.
The performances are exceptional. Caitie Graham is a standout as the awkward teenager Molly. Alternately playful and morose, she gives a remarkably measured performance as the troubled teen and really takes the audience through the character’s emotional journey.
While I thought the brief sequences meant to represent bullying through interpretive dance were an interesting device, I’m not sure they really had the intended impact and I felt they were a little out of place in the flow of the rest of the show.
The story unfurls in two tracks; Molly’s story and the secondary plot line of Joseph and how his increasing obsession with telling Molly’s story leads to the deterioration of his relationship with his girlfriend Tori (Shanda Bezic).
At times I felt like the script spent too much time dwelling on the less-compelling storyline of Joseph and Tori and I wonder if the play wouldn’t work better if it were more linearly focused on the Molly storyline.
Regardless, Grey Ground is a timely work that challenges its audience to look beyond the headlines and wade into the tricky grey moral ground around the subject of bullying where the lines between perpetrators and victims become blurred.
Now, at a time when policy-makers are grappling with laws to deal with the issue and anti-bullying campaigns are bringing the issue into the awareness of the mainstream, it’s important to add such thoughtful voices to the discussion.
- Grey Ground plays at Venue 8, Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A Saint George St.)
- Show times: July 05 10:30 PM, July 06 03:00 PM, July 08 05:00 PM, July 09 04:30 PM, July 10 08:15 PM, July 12 02:00 PM, July 13 07:00 PM
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows