Strolling Player (Compass Theatre Productions) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

Strolling Player Richard Willis at Toronto Fringe 2013Strolling Player grew from actor Richard Willis’ application for Canadian residency. He had to provide every address he’s had since age 18. Willis is fifty something and 18 is long ago and a lot of addresses away. That planted the seed of the idea for Strolling Player. I love the way mundane activities can inspire creativity.

I’ve said before that I’m a fan of solo autobiographical shows. The odds were good going in that I was going to enjoy the show. I did.

Before I could start enjoying it I had to get past the fact that Willis reminded me of someone who broke my heart. It took more than a couple of minutes.

Willis is British and trained at RADA. He has a lovely accent and a wonderful voice, a Shakespearean kind of voice.

There’s quite a bit of Shakespeare in the show. Sometimes it’s a speech from a play that he had been in. Sometimes a speech or part of a speech illustrates his life at the time. Willis tells the story chronologically which I liked. I could pay attention to the story and not have to try and keep a couple of time lines in my head.

Heidi Reimer – Willis’ wife – is listed on the program with Willis as the writers of the piece. The writing is beautiful. The language is perfect. It doesn’t say who wrote what but they should collaborate again.

The sound and the music was also lovely. The sound of the waves as we waited for the show to start was hypnotic and calming. I also liked the use of lighting.

One of the things that I really liked was that although Willis included his marriages and affairs in the show he didn’t tell us his partners’ names. He did namedrop about actors he has worked with. If I had ever been on a stage with Richard Burton or Daniel Day-Lewis I’d be name-dropping.

This is a very professional show. Props are minimal, as with all Fringe shows. Costumes are additions to Willis’ basic outfit. But Willis is a talented actor and he’s working with a director and crew who know what they’re doing. I can see this as a touring piece. I enjoyed it.

Details:

  • Strolling Player is playing at Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman Ave)
    Performance times are:
    July 07 08:15 PM
    July 08 04:30 PM
    July 10 12:00 PM
    July 12 05:15 PM
    July 13 10:30 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

Please note that there is absolutely no latecomer seating during the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Photo of Richard Willis