Vic Harbour (The Four Winds Collective) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review

David J. Phillips, Andrea Grant and Matthew Gin from Vic Harbour

A young man is determined to save his hometown, Vic Harbour, from the ghosts, drugs and isolation which are threatening to overwhelm it. He seeks the help of a young woman and the old lighthouse operator to overcome these forces. But will it be enough, or is the town’s decline inevitable?

Playing at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace under the auspices of the Toronto Fringe Festival, this show has a lot of interesting ideas in play. Is it worth your while?

I feel there’s a trap which scriptwriters and actors often fall into: when you spend several months developing and internalizing a character, it becomes easy to forget that, to the audience, this is a new person. We don’t understand how they relate to other people, we don’t know anything about their history or personality–we don’t know anything about them at all.

In this case, it feels like the actors and author have an excellent idea of how this town and its denizens exist and interact, but it is never communicated to the audience in a memorable or compelling way. I’m still not sure what, if any, relationship the characters have to each other, and of the dozen or so offstage characters I would struggle to name two or three. In short, I found myself not caring if these people lived or died–which is fatal for a play of this nature.

I would like to credit David J. Phillips (a Fringe veteran, playing Frank) for doing excellent work with what I thought was weak material: if you feel strongly about any of the characters, it’s probably about his jovially decrepit lighthouse keeper who still has a few kicks left in him. He’s also the only element of the play which feels stable or, to be frank, genuine to me.

There are attempts to inject little bits of horror into the performance–a black eye, a baseball bat, a blood-stained t-shirt–but without any emotional investment in these characters, you can’t shock an audience. My companion blinked; the woman on the other side checked her watch. The play went on.

I kind of wish it hadn’t.

I may be a little cynical here, and this may be the consequence of high expectations: the setting and scenario are ripe with dramatic possibilities. But the treatment felt so shallow (and the characterization so spotty) that, whatever upside there might be here, I personally couldn’t find it.

Details

  • Vic Harbour is playing at Venue 10, the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Ave.).
  • Performances: July 06 03:30 PM; July 08 09:15 PM; July 09 01:15 PM; July 10 02:45 PM; July 11 07:45 PM; July 13 12:30 PM; July 14 08:45 PM
  • Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Latecomers will not be seated.
  • Tickets are also available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416 966 1062, or 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.

Photograph of David J. Phillips, Andrea Grant and Matthew Gin by Carla Johnston.