A physical absurdist show that provides plenty of laughs
The opening night of I Hired a Contract Killer, a production by Randolph Academy, was sold out more than an hour before it started. 10 minutes into the show I understood why. This show is unique, comical, cute and so much fun!
The story, originally a film released in 1990 by Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismäki is simple: Frenchman Henri Boulanger (Matt Raffy) works a boring desk job for the government. He has no social life to speak of and, when fired, killing himself seems to be a good idea. Unable to do so, he meets shady characters in the back room of a bar who tell him they’ll get it done. The next few days he makes it as easy as possible for the hitman to locate him, until he falls in love with the beautiful Margaret (played by Brittani Byrne) and finds a reason to live. Trouble is, how do you stop yourself from being killed by people you’ve paid to do just that?
The production has a film noir feel to it. There are eight supporting characters, dressed in dark trench coats and top hats. They use old projectors on hand held screens as props. The supporting characters, played by Jackie Rose Brown, Andrew J. Hampton, Jessica Harb, Annelise Hawrylak, Jordi O’Dael, Samantha Knapp, Shai Tannyan and Mitch Wedgewood were to me, the real stars of the show. Their clever and hilarious narration provides the setting of the various scenes, creates suspense and gets much deserved laughter from the audience.
The staging is minimalist and the supporting cast shuffle across the stage and floor bending themselves into different props. They also provide sound effects. The use of the people as props, sound and staging is a unique experience and something that all those who went with me said was the best part of the show.
This is a physical piece of theatre, fast-paced, with a lot of movement of feet and bodies, but it never feels distracting. Kudos to the movement coach Melinda Little. There is minimal dialogue, but full of narration as I mentioned. I did notice sometimes the narrators get ahead of the scene and the voice modulations/projections of the different actors miss the mark. I couldn’t follow and couldn’t hear what they were saying in parts of the performance.
Absurdist though it might be, this is a creative show, one that requires you to use your imagination. And when you do, the experience is rewarding and fun. The darkness of the staging and subject matter (suicide, loneliness, marginalization) is presented well with humour, thanks to Bruce Pitkin’s direction. From chuckles, to belly laughs to I-need-to-stop-laughing-so-I-can-hear-what-the-actors-are-saying I Hired a Contract Killer is a really fun and interesting experience. Seriously don’t miss it.
- I Hired a Contract Killer plays at the Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St)
- Showtimes: July 03 08:15 PM, July 05 03:00 PM, July 08 10:15 PM, July 09 04:00 PM, July 10 05:15 PM, July 12 12:00 PM, July 14 07:30 PM
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only) and go on sale one hour before showtime. 50% of tickets are available in advance and are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge), these can be purchased online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext. 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value Packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photo: left to right – Matt Raffy and Brittani Byrne, photo by Darlene Spencer