When I was ushered into the Majilis Art Garden to see Bodies Strange at the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival, it didn’t seem like they were ready to have me. There were some people on the stage, talking and rifling through papers. I felt a little lost, but eventually chose what I thought was a good seat, right in the front row.
The staging is set with the audience in a semi-circle around the actors, but it was clear from the beginning that there was a lack of awareness of the audience, as I spent at least half the play staring at the back of an actor’s head. I was also forced to pull my legs up to dodge frenetic movement, while in the middle of the play my particular seat turned out to be in the splash zone (conveniently left out of the play’s many warnings).
The story seems to be a multi-generational tale that weaves through incarnations, flirting with a kind of magical realism that moves between historical, mundane and fantastical. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what the story was about and if there was a theme, it was lost amidst a feast of language, at least one half hour too long.
There were a lot of shaky details. Many of the actors were rushing or forgetting their lines, knocking over props or nearly falling over in some kind of misplaced zeal for dramatic action.
There were two scenes during the play that nearly saved the rest, were it not for the drag of the last half an hour. It was clear that there was some talent in this troupe and perhaps given a more coherent script or a longer rehearsal time, they could have made something out of raw elements that seemed just a little too raw.
Pacing was a major issue and I felt that the piece would have improved a great deal were the timing sharpened up. I was having anxiety at how slowly the action was moving forward and often found my mind wandering.
Perhaps this is a piece that will find it’s footing as the run continues.
- Bodies Strange plays at the Majlis Art Garden. (163 Walnut Ave.)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Sexual Content, Realistic Violence or Gore, Mature Language, Audience Participation.
- Thursday June 30th, 09:00 pm
- Friday July 1st, 09:00 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 09:00 pm
- Monday July 4th, 09:00 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 09:00 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 09:00 pm
- Friday July 8th, 09:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 09:00 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 09:00 pm
Photo of Harsharan Sidhu, Kyle Capstick, Alexi Pedneault, Annie MacKay, Larissa Currie, Jordi O’Dael, Carlos Albornoz, and Kelly Anderson by Jonathan Harvey