Ah the elusive one-man-show; a form so oft-attempted but oh so rarely done successfully. Redheaded Stepchild, presented by Nobody’s Business Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is written and performed by Johnnie Walker and ought to be studied as the model of how to write and perform a proper, impactful one-hander.
Redheaded Stepchild tells the story of Nicholas, a precocious 12-year-old redheaded boy whose proclivity for Shakespeare and Gilbert and Sullivan make him a bit different from the other kids at school. Nicholas is troubled; his father has recently remarried, literally making him a redheaded stepchild, and the biggest kid in his sixth grade class is threatening to beat him up.
The show is alternately sidesplittingly funny, heartbreaking and up-lifting. Walker’s sharp and clever script expertly weaves together witty one-liners that roll off at a steady pace throughout the show (credit to director Morgan Norwich), pithy facts about redheads, and the sweet, earnest story of a young misfit.
Walker plays 12-year-old Nicholas completely earnestly and breaks our hearts in the process. Nicholas’ alter-ego Rufus Vermillion is played full-camp and his stepmother Mary-Ann is sketched out as a bit of a caricature. The way Walker is able to deftly weave between the show’s three characters while constantly holding the audience in rapt attention is a marvel to behold.
Part of the magic of Redheaded Stepchild is how relatable it is. I think anybody who has ever felt like an outsider can see themselves in Nicholas. I found myself throughly invested in his story and moved to tears by the end. I laughed, I learned, I cried; no small feat for a one-hour solo Fringe show.
Redheaded Stepchild shares a slot at the Toronto Fringe with Nobody’s Business Theatre’s other show Amusement so there are precious few opportunities to see it. Get your tickets now; it’s one of the strongest shows I’ve seen at the Fringe and is sure to sell out quickly.
Redheaded Stepchild plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79 St George St)
July 06 at 07:15 PM
July 10 at 04:15 PM
July 11 at 01:45 PM
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Johnnie Walker by Greg Wong