True story: In 1916, the people of Irwin, TN lynch mobbed a circus elephant. Mary was an 18-year-old Indian elephant who spent her life in captivity before she finally lashed out killing an assistant trainer. For this, the town saw it necessary that she be hung by chains until she died. In Man’s Dominion, playing at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, veteran actor Tim Powell tells her story through ten eye-witness accounts in interwoven monologues in a rich and stunning performance.
The ten character accounts range from from the circus ringmaster, Red Eldridge (the assistant trainer that Mary killed), to the town’s reverend George McKee and even Mary herself. Through simple adjustments — adding a hat or clown nose, buttoning the top button of his shirt, changing his stance — Powell seamlessly transitions in and out of these characters to detail a story of a town conflicted.
The title of Man’s Dominion comes from the verse in Genesis that states that Man has dominion over all animals which the Reverend references vehemently to justify his decision for the execution. The verse was very clearly taken out of context as the other characters ultimately understand.
It’s very hard to pull together a one-man show that can captivate an audience for a full hour, but Powell’s many years as a character actor for both theatre and film shine through in this performance. He captures each character and all their emotions powerfully in simple gestures and glints in his eyes that speak louder than words.
The musical interludes composed by Jim Furmston are subtle and delicate providing the right kind of added inflection to Powell’s delivery.
Ultimately, the most touching aspect of the whole story is that the town retroactively realized that their actions towards this animal were what was truly barbaric. It’s a show that delivers plenty food for thought and in ways is very inspiring. Definitely worth a watch during this year’s Fringe.
- Man’s Dominion plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- 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.
- Audience advisory: Mature language
July 04 at 03:30 PM
July 05 at 10:30 PM
July 06 at 10:15 PM
July 07 at 05:15 PM
July 10 at 08:00 PM
July 11 at 12:00 PM