Sketch comedy can really be hit or miss. You have to connect with the type of humour and material a company is putting forward. Unfortunately, there was nothing I connected with at 18 Imaginary Places to Visit Before You Die playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.
Actors were stumbling over the script, a couple of times stumbling over the punch line, the pace of the piece felt very slow and the timing generally felt off. It felt like more than a case of opening night jitters. The show felt under-rehearsed.
I’m not sure that a faster pace and more rehearsal would have changed things in a way that suddenly made me enjoy the show. It just wasn’t something I found funny. I didn’t connect with the material.
In fact, there were two sketches where a character actually says “this isn’t funny” as part of the script. I got the context but all it did for me was feel like an acknowledgement that even the players on stage didn’t feel like their material was working.
It also felt like the sketches kept going after their natural ending. Ultimately it all combined to make the hour long show feel very long for me.
I started noticing stuff around me more, something that happens when I’m not particularly engaged with the show I’m watching. I noticed that at no point was the whole audience laughing in unison. Usually at sketch shows there is some moment that grabs everyone, but this piece was missing that stand-out moment.
This is of course not to say that the entire audience was stone-faced the whole time, there was some laughter. And there were ideas in there that had the potential to work for me. There was a sketch about God appearing on a breakfast TV show. It’s a funny idea.
Hopefully as Fringe continues they will get the technical stuff down, tighten up the timing and improve on the lines and so on. Then for people who would connect with the material, the distractions will be out of the way.
- 18 Imaginary Places to Visit Before You Die is playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79 St. George St)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door.
- The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
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