The lights dim and the door through which the audience entered slams OPEN. A grubby young man (Allan Turner) barks at the attendant outside. He’s followed by a clown-faced sidekick (Chloe Payne), whose responses are limited to squeaks and gestures. The odd couple bounce around, play tricks, engaging all sorts of shenanigans. They break more than just the fourth wall, if there are any after the fourth. And then some.
This is Sour Grapes, put on by The Aft End. It’s the beginning of the play. No, the middle of the play. No, no, the beginning of some people playing. No, no, no, characters beginning to play.
Right, characters fooling around in association with the Toronto Fringe Festival.
I don’t know how to explain this, but what I have said above feels absolutely true to what Sour Grapes is. Interruptions galore, a doctor, a clown, grapes!, the spider, and this is not an indigenous allegory. Where is this going? It reeks of IMPROV, which I am not often a fan of. But really, Sour Grapes is a very personal thread of musings on the void commonly known as Life.
The show is definitely not conventional theatre. It is as random as a 45-second appearance of a pink bunny, played by your – my – first year college dorm mate (William Nishri) who you – I – haven’t seen in ages. Whoa.
Although the premise of the show proves to be rather dark, I don’t find the humour all that bleak. The play speaks about and around taboo subjects but not to the point that I am laughing out of discomfort. That is the kind of ‘dark’ that I think ideal, say, laughing at a funeral. Obviously I am inclined towards the blackest of humours and cannot speak for those in the audience around me – who, by the way, are keeling over with laughter. I agree, though. Sour Grapes is entertaining.
In working with experienced clown and improviser, Bruce Hunter, as director, The Aft End sought and achieved a great melange of genres. While there is a lot going on in this production, it is far from being clumsy. I think that it isn’t easy for comedy of different orders – at that of the jester, the clown, or the improv actor, for example – to shine through collaboratively and without conflict. But Sour Grapes succeeds at exactly that by stringing its characters together on a serious note – on being born to die and making the best of it.
Well, CHEERS to that.
Sour Grapes is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue).
July 5 – 11:00pm July 7 – 4:00pm July 8 – 8:45pm July 9 – 4:30pm July 11 – 7:00pm July 12 – 6:15pm July 13 – 12:00pm
- Individual Fringe tickets ($10) are available during the festival, at Theatre Passe Muraille (1 hour prior to each performance), cash sales only. Latecomers will not be admitted.
- Advance $11 tickets available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416.966.1062, ext. 1, or 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.