Review: redShow (InspiraTO Festival)

Meeting Mr Right

Seven more 10-minute plays arrive on the Toronto stage through InspiraTO Festival

On Thursday night I saw blueShow at the InspiraTO Festival. On Friday I saw redShow, which is the same format as blueShow – seven 10 minute plays in 70 minutes. The sets are  minimal, and the backdrops are projections.

The difference between blue and red? According to the website, if you like your plays “full of passion,” this (redShow) is for you. blueShow is for you if “you like your plays sublime.” On Friday, I learned that I’m a blueShow kind of girl.

I really only connected with a couple of the plays.  That had nothing to do with the acting or the directing; both were as strong tonight as they were last night.

The projections were just as good, and the transitional music mix by DJ Angus James was as wonderful as last night’s mix.

I really enjoyed the first play, Meeting Mr Right by Stephan de Ghelder. It was clever, funny, and sweet. Kevin Chew was perfect as Craig: nervous, a bit naive, and adorable. Scott Labonte was equally perfect as Doug: witty, funny, and charming. Thanks to Nick May’s direction, the pace and timing were perfect.

Call Raul by Joseph Borini had an interesting premise. Rozelli has a nuclear device, and his wife wants it gone. Peter Mazzucco was excellent as Rozelli, telling his tale of woe in all seriousness. “Who weaponized the Salvation Army?” is a great line and will stay with me for a while.

Angie Farrow’s Leo Rising features Liz Laywine as a jilted bride having a one-sided conversation with the jerk who left her standing at the altar. Tension rises and there’s a sense of foreboding; something bad is going to happen.

One of the effective things about having a projected backdrop is that the location of the scene can change so the audience sees the actor in different locations without having to break the flow of the play. It worked particularly well in Leo Rising and also in Call Raul.

Broken Windows by Fiona Raye Clarke isn’t the kind of play that I enjoy. It’s the story of what can happen if zero-tolerence policing is applied to the -nth degree. Four people died in 10 minutes. To me, it felt bombastic and heavy handed. The writing was fine, the actors played their roles well, and I really liked the way that the lighting was used to define the scenes. There was nothing at all wrong with the play. It just wasn’t for me.

And then there was the fifth play, which took me to such a horrible place that I can’t tell you anything about the sixth and seventh plays. My body was there, but I wasn’t.

Since Friday night I’ve been struggling to decide what I want to write about the experience; whether I want to write about the experience.

WARNING: The rest of this article is about sexual assault.

The Ugly by Tabitha Keast is a play about a woman who is sexually assaulted by her doctor during a pelvic examination.

It starts out innocently enough: they chat about their kids and spouses, he checks her heart rate and lungs. Then he tells her to lie down, feet in the stirrups, relax.

And I start feeling afraid.

By the time her removes the speculum – which he has thoughtfully warmed between his thighs – I’m having trouble breathing.

When he takes off his glove and puts lubricant on his bare hand my heart is beating so fast it feels as if it’s going to blow up. I can hardly breathe, I’m covered in sweat, and it feels as if there’s a metal band around my chest.

And then I’m 20 years old again and I’m being sexually assaulted by a  gynecologist. I’m paralyzed, I can’t move. I’m afraid to leave because I’m in a seat that’s as far away from the exit as it’s possible to be. Everyone will see me, I’ll disrupt the play, I’ll get in trouble, somehow it will be my fault.

So I stayed until the end, sat through two more plays, reminded myself how to breathe, and kept telling myself that I wasn’t 20 years old anymore.

Yesterday, Megan and I were talking about it and she reminded me that last year there had been a lot of discussion about trigger warnings, including at Fringe, for plays.

I said that I didn’t know that a warning would have made any difference. I hadn’t thought about the incident for at least 30 years, maybe longer. I don’t even remember ever even talking about it with my therapist. I had it packed tightly away in a sealed box at the back of my brain. A warning that the play contained a graphic description of sexual assault wouldn’t necessarily have rung any bells for me.

Megan – who is wise beyond belief – said no, maybe not. But it might have made it okay for you to leave.

She’s right. It might have.

Here’s the thing: I would have had no qualms about leaving if I suddenly felt ill or if I had a huge coughing fit.

Do I think there should be warnings on playbills or ads? I don’t have an answer. What is the purpose of the warning? Is it saying “Don’t come to this play if…?” or “You might find this play upsetting if…” or “It’s ok to leave if this play…”

I’m now giving myself permission to leave a performance if something like that ever happens to me again. It’s actually all the warning I need. It may not be what anyone else needs.

And now, back to the regular end of the review.

Bottom line, InspiraTO is a great festival that offers something for any budget. If you don’t have a full evening to spare, there are other things on offer, such as Quickies, (10 minute stand-alone plays), UrbanART, and UrbanMusic, all for $5.


  • The InspiraTO Festival is at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street) and site specific venues until June 6th
  • See the website for performance dates and times
  • Tickets are $5.00 for quickies, urban art, and urban music, and $20 for redShow, blueShow, theatreSafari and theatreCarrousel. There are passes available – see website for details
  • Tickets are available online and at the box office

Photo of Scott Labonte and Kevin Chew in Meeting Mr Right

3 thoughts on “Review: redShow (InspiraTO Festival)”

  1. I also saw that play and feel very sorry that it took you to such a dark place. Everyone in the audience seemed extremely uncomfortable with it, including me.

  2. Sam, thank you so much for this candid review and for sharing your experience. I saw this show, and also got unpleasantly/unexpectedly triggered, and I really appreciate that you said so much of what I was thinking.

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