Let me confess and be honest: I did not expect to like this show. I picked it up late in the process in the interest of being a good sport, but I was dreading the moment in arrived. “Oh, look,” I thought. “Another white guy looking to make money off First Nations spirituality. I bet there’ll be a talking stick.” I have never been so happy to be wrong. Solo: A Boy’s Journey playing as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival is surprisingly good.
It starts a little slow, with some new-agey fourth-wall-breaking I could have lived without. Never mind. Tell yourself knock-knock jokes for the first five minutes if you have to, but do not get soured early on this show. Things are just about pick up nicely.
Jerry Brodey, the performer, is such a good storyteller. And the story he’s telling, to my surprise and eventual delight, turned out to be the story of…a white guy. A social worker. Who goes, without a great deal of knowledge or preparation, onto a reserve because he was invited – by a friend from the reserve – to come try to help one of the social worker’s client have some meaningful rite of passage. At the last minute his friend can’t go, and another troubled youth gets added to the expedition, instead.
The central theme of the piece turns out to be how we deal with our fears. Each of the characters – even Raccoon, who makes multiple appearances and sounds remarkably like my Great Uncle Leon – has to struggle some with what they want or need to happen, what they have or haven’t been allowed to feel. There are injuries and deaths of both body and spirit. Nothing is tidy. Everyone is doing his best, even if some of their bests are awful. And yet at the end, I felt profoundly satisfied with the efforts of all characters. I loved them each a little. I had forgotten that they were all this one fellow, Jerry Brodey.
There’s a little more business at the very end, once the story is told, but by then – if you like storytelling – I doubt you’ll care. The end song is better than the first song, anyhow, or maybe I was just more predisposed to like it, even if I did roll my eyes a little at the choice to display the guitar alone, spotlit, in the very center of a gorgeous, 3′ x 6′ rug for the entire show. For my money, I would have cut the whole set and all the props except the book and the candle. They telegraph a self-importantness that the show doesn’t really contain.
But never mind that. You won’t have much trouble staying in the story, and even if Brodey and his co-writer Robert Morgan don’t know anything else, they at least know that the story’s the thing.
July 07 01:15 PM
July 10 11:00 PM
July 11 08:45 PM
July 13 07:00 PM
July 14 01:45 PM
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10, cash only. Latecomers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at 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.