Review: Shove It Down My Throat (Buddies In Bad Times)

Photo of Johnny WalkerShove It Down My Throat brought raw, living theatre to the Toronto stage

Judging by the title alone, I knew I was in for an edgy night of theatre and I definitely got it.

Pandemic Theatre Company‘s Shove It Down My Throat, which played for one night only as part of the Buddies In Bad Times Residency Program, is a docu-play investigating a series of stabbings at a LGBTQ New Year’s Eve Party back in 2013. Johnny Walker has written emails to Luke O’Donovan, the gay teen who was thrown in jail for committing the act. Johnny enlists his friends to help him find the truth of what really happened that night, and finds out once and for all whether or not Luke is the gay rights poster boy he thought he was.

Shove It Down My Throat is a play in “process” so I’m going to take into account the minimal amount of rehearsal time I’m sure the actors had, as well as the bare-bones production–which was pretty damn impressive considering the play isn’t even finished yet.

I’ll say off the top that the cast of Shove it Down My Throat really delivered. Each actor brought their own personality to their role, and although there were stumbles here and there, (which is expected from a staged reading), I truly believed the performances.

I was especially impressed with Alexander Plouffe, who played multiple roles including an old southern dame from a retired sitcom, as well as Saturday morning cartoon favorite Foghorn Leghorn. The cast was, in a word, charming, and was easily the most enjoyable part of the production.

Though the production value was low, it was exactly what I would have expected from a play that was still in workshop mode. I wasn’t sitting there thinking about all the things that were missing because the few props, lights and set pieces that they did have were used in a way that fully supported the production.

The story is, well, another story. At times it felt like I was watching a presentation explaining what the play is about instead of getting to actually see a story in action. In this case, I wasn’t totally sure how some of the lines or jokes (though funny) connected to the main issue at hand: the Luke O’Donovan case. The characters would often go off on tangents that didn’t serve the plot or development of their characters in any way, which caused me, as an audience member, to disengage at times.

The scenes that captivated me the most were the ones that involved action. The re-enactments of the scene of the crime interpreted by Johnny Walker and his five friends were some of the best moments of the show. In those moments, I could finally understand what all this talk was about!

I should mention that the highest point in the show for me was the ending, when Johnny Walker was surrounded by different versions of his “hero” Luke O’Donovan, played by his friends dressed in frumpy black polos. Finally having a conversation face-to-face with the man he’s been building up for the past hour was satisfying to watch as an audience member. It all kind of “came together” in the end, and anything I didn’t understand previously finally started to make sense.

All in all, Shove It Down My Throat pulled off what it meant to do. It was the definition of “raw,” and yes, a little under rehearsed, but for some reason, it worked. Theatre is often described as a living, breathing thing, and Shove it Down My Throat was exactly that.

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Photo by Greg Wong. 

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