Review: Davy the Punk (Town of York Historical Society)

Bob & Dave, then and now. Photo credit Paul Kay.Davy the Punk tells a personal tale of 1950s Toronto on stage at the Performing Arts Lodge

Bob Bossin’s Davy the Punk, produced by the Town of York Historical Society and based on Bob’s book of the same name, was a lovely show — a funny, touching, musical exploration of Davy Bossin’s life in the gambling underbelly of 1950s Toronto.

Honestly, I would have benefited from the show a little more if I were Jewish, a longtime resident of Toronto, or from a generation that remembers the 1950s, since all three were integral to the setting of Bossin’s stories. Many other audience members laughed or gasped in response to references that were a mystery to me.

However, good storytelling has universal appeal, and Davy the Punk was certainly good storytelling. It was good singing, too. Bossin, a folk musician by trade, punctuated his stories with a series of evocative guitar songs. My favourite was a touching ballad about the power of simple moments: “Me and my Dad are taking a walk / He’ll get a cigar and I’ll get an ice cream cone.”

The minimal staging — a microphone, a music stand (which Bossin used as a magistrate’s podium during a climactic moment), and a small pool of light — was part of the cozy atmosphere. The whole play had a welcoming and intimate feel, like a family gathering. The production also made excellent use of historical black-and-white photographs, which were projected on a screen accompanying Bossin’s performance.

I was impressed at Bossin’s showmanship and charisma; it was hilarious to watch him embody different characters, especially when he had to hold down both sides of a conversation. I found it easy to like him and his sweet, winking sense of humour. Judging by the audience’s delighted applause after every story, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Davy the Punk is set against a backdrop of bookies and bootleggers, cops and newspaper peddlers. Far from feeling seedy and dangerous, however, the show retains a tone of cozy nostalgia throughout. There is real emotion here — after all, this is Bossin’s tribute to his father Davy — but it is not raw emotion. All the rough edges of these stories have been worn away, leaving a very polished and easily digestible piece of theatre. I like my theatre to feel a little more edgy and urgent, but that’s a personal preference; Davy the Punk was a beautifully told, immaculately performed night of intimate storytelling.


Photo of Bob Bossin by Paul Kay