The Very Very Girl, it turns out, is a show about which I had a lot of feelings. It seems designed to evoke feelings, so that feels fair – people around me finished the show in tears, mothers hugged their daughters and a few men held their programs strategically over their crotches. I left a little let down.
Julie Brar, the playwright and performer, is very good in this piece, let me be clear. She inhabits multiple characters over the course of the piece, invoking them in stance and accent without so much as a hair ribbon or ball cap’s worth of assistance. Her movements are precise as she picks her way between boxes marked on the stage with heavy nautical rope, a visual reminder of the compartmentilization she uses to help her move through what was obviously a very difficult period of her life. It works; each square represents a location in her life and helps us keep track of where we are, both in geography and in time.
The delivery of each line is slow, and measured. I found myself counting off the silence between each sentence as she said it, and found that she was taking two full beats between each one in the monologues, though in dialogue the speech comes at a more natural pace. The slowness become unsettling after a while – in a 45 minute show, it started to give each sentence a ponderous weight that not all of them seemed to deserve, and I wanted her to trust us to be listening better after a while. Director Jessica Glanfield, who makes some good choices here, seems to have sanctioned this and it really didn’t work for me.
Eventually, this piece began to feel didactic, as though the audience were being repeatedly whacked over the nose with the news that Brar’s choice to work as a stripper for a period of time was Difficult. And that this choice was the result of home circumstances that were Difficult. I get it. I could have gotten it in half the time, and was left feeling a little bit like “Okay. What else you got?” I wanted to see into some of the complexities. But the same point kept coming, over and over.
My primary artistic concern is also my primary political discomfort with this show. I feel that it denies – to the point of parody – the agency of people who choose sex work (I’m thinking of the great Mirha-Soleil Ross‘s work, here) and simply re-iterates a cliché. If Brar was going to repeat this familiar trope of “hard childhood delivers young girl into sex work,” I would have at least liked a more nuanced treatment.
This piece sure tugged the heartstrings of other audience members, all around me. At the end of the show, however, it just felt like a very talented performer making ends meet by doing an after-school special.
The Very Very Girl plays at the Annex Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
Sat July 6 – 4:00pm
Sun July 7 – 9:45pm
Tues July 9 – 2:15pm
Wed July 10 – 1:45pm
Thurs July 11 – 7:30pm
Sat July 13 – 7:30pm
- Tickets for all Mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only.
- Advance tickets are $11, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062 ext. 1), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West)
- Money-saving value packs are also available; see website for details.
- LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo by Emanuel Pires