This Ain’t The Yellow Brick Road is Jake Steele’s life story. It begins four years ago, with his recovery from a brain tumour which robbed him of his memory: he had to re-learn everything – from elementary self-care, to how to process emotions, to who he was. His Toronto Fringe Festival show explores how he grew and developed into a new person, how he relates to the old one, and his adventures as he comes into — or, perhaps, overcomes — himself.
At least, that’s what Jake Steele says.
Thing is, Steele makes a lot of claims. Some of them very plausible, some of them suspicious — and as he made more and more claims, and as these claims got bigger and grander, I found myself doubting him more and more.
Did he really get fired from several network marketing gigs for being too successful?
Is it possible for someone to go before the Supreme Court of Canada on 5 different occasions, yet not leave a LexisNexis or Google footprint?
What, precisely, does he mean when he claims to have died four times?
I don’t doubt his medical history. I don’t doubt that he lives on Salt Spring Island. I don’t doubt that he got HIV at age 16 from a blood transfusion. But beyond this bedrock, there’s a lot of muddy water.
I’m not saying he lied, or intends to deceive: there are plenty of shades of grey between “honest little boy scout” and “utter fabulist”. A lot of it seemed more like embellishment, or dramatic reconstruction, or after-the-fact rationalization, as opposed to out-and-out dishonesty. But in an autobiographical show — in a “take me as I am, and I don’t give a shit if you disagree” show at that — this degree of doubt just made me queasy.
His loosey-goosey presentation style doesn’t help. Steele has no script, no direction, no dramatic arc… he basically just rambles. And the less said about his “Now, I know this isn’t politically-correct, and I don’t really give a shit what you think, but…” standoffishness, the better; I was left with the impression that Jake Steele had never met anyone quite so outstanding in every way as Jake Steele, his cleverness and worldliness only exceeded by his modesty.
(Fact-checking for this piece was conducted using Jake Steele’s prior name, which was given in the show as “BJ Jackson”. As a matter of due diligence, Mooney on Theatre attempted to contact Mr. Steele to discuss some of the claims made in his show; as of press time, he has not acknowledged or responded to our inquiries.)
This Aint The Yellow Brick Road plays the Tarragon Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave., near Bathurst and Bridgman.)
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 07 at 04:30 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM
July 11 at 01:45 PM
July 12 at 11:00 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photograph of Jake Steele by Sydney Helland.