SideMart Theatrical Grocery‘s production of Trying for the Kingdom, playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre as part of SummerWorks is a complex, passionate multimedia theatre performance. “This is a period piece made by the future about now,” a character says at the beginning of the play for the audience’s benefit. The show quite capably manages to make a powerful presentation of just how confusing, difficult and rewarding it can be to be young and creative in the city in our era.
The action all occurs in a single set, a punk squat: white paint splattered on the walls, a battered sofa with stuffing leaking out, and televisions on either side. Sitting on the couch are the three residents, Prince Jackie (Patrick John Costello), Lady Jersey (Katie Swift), and Prince Holly (Kyle Gatehouse), young 20-somethings dressed in full punk attire, bored and desperate for something to do. Can they make it big, and what would they have to risk if they were to make the effort?
Trying for the Kingdom is very non-linear; Prince Holly makes note of this at the beginning when he says “My life is not a narrative”, speaking also for his friends. The performance follows the three through their lives, memories, and imaginings. The three try to order takeout food with a punk song; they worry about how money can corrupt; they imagine what speeches they’d give if they made it big and became stars, and they hope that they can make it and that they can matter.
Technically, Trying for the Kingdom is amazing, making use of a very well-designed set to seemlessly integrate the clips displayed on the monitors and the snippets of radio played over the sound system into the drama. Everyone responsible for this success; director Graham Cuthbertson, stage designer Sarah Yaffe, and the three performers themselves, should be congratulated.
Similarly, the show does a great job of integrating punk and post-punk music into the show. When Prince Jackie and Prince Holly get together, form their band the Simple Faints, and improvise their punk anthem “You Don’t Know When I’m Going to Die So Don’t Tell Me How to Live” into existence, they provide Trying for the Kingdom with its moral anchor. All the musical performances, from the big five-piece punk numbers to Prince Jackie’s No Wave dirge about a show so bad it was fatal, are excellent in their own right.
Leaving the theatre when the show was over, the only thing I was left thinking about was the underlying point of Trying for the Kingdom. Skill and passion and imagination and hope all feature in the lives of the protagonists and in their portrayal, but what comes of it? The non-linearity of the show was enjoyable, but I was left wishing almost despite myself for a clear final ending. Did they reach their kingdom of the famous and memorable after all?
- Trying for the Kingdom is playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Ave.)
- Show Times: Friday August 9, 10:00 pm; Saturday August 10, 5:00 pm; Sunday August 11, 10:00 pm; Monday August 12, 10:00 pm; Thursday August 15, 5:00 pm; Saturday August 17, 7:30; Sunday August 18, 12:00 pm.
- Trying for the Kingdom is 65 minutes long.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth (located at 100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) Aug. 6-18 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.