Earth Tourist (Chandelier Factory Productions) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

photo of a woman crouching between two filing cabinets

Earth Tourist is a cheeky little show that addresses big questions like metaphysics and the human condition, staged by Chandelier Factory Productions for the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival. 

We follow Sparklemuffin, an etheral unicorn spirit who wants to escape the cycle of human reincarnation and join with the cosmos. In order to achieve this, though, she must fill out a lengthy form proving her successes during time spent in a mortal coil. There is, of course, a day until the application deadline and she is mocked by her frenemy Clocklor, a sentient alarm clock and avatar of Linear Time.

The plot isn’t conventional, in which a hero journeys towards a desired goal. Instead, this is a tale of avoiding obligations and delaying the inevitable. It is a smart subversion of dramatic structure, especially given the play’s themes about fitting in and coping with the artificial boundaries we put on life.

The heart of this show is its observational humour. Namely, our heroine’s struggle is an allegory for the slog artists go through when filling out applications and forms for funding, employment, festival submissions. Her fear and procrastination in the face of bureaucracy is an honest depiction of what ails so many creative types.

Having said that, Sparklemuffin also reveals some not-so-sweet attitudes that are unbecoming of a professional artist. She describes the application process like “lowering herself” to fit in with others and jabs at those whom fall into the trappings of conformity. Rather than celebrating how art can enrich and elevate human life, our protagonist bemoans how hard it is to be superior to her fellow man. Even when she finally accepts that being a human doesn’t suck, she is difficult to root for. What could be a perfectly good underdog (or under-unicorn) story becomes a frustrating and self-defeating affair.

I wanted to love this show. It has a clever premise, a visual feast of a set, and the show opens with a cute piece of physical comedy. But it drags.

The pacing is ponderous, and there’s not enough energy on stage for all the colour, glitter and gags that go on. It could be fun, if Sparklemuffin was more enthusiastic about her philosophical waxing. The character seems like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, although her time-telling friend, voiced by Jake Nicoll, acts as a wonderful straight man. He does a good job of saying what the audience is thinking, but when your co-star is a talking clock radio, having a likable protagonist is important.

To be fair, the show does make a good vehicle for the talents of playwright and leading lady Kira Sheppard. She pulls off enviable yoga poses, plays the harp gorgeously and is an impressive writer – the songs and jokes she composes are sharp and relevant. The trouble is that the vessel for these things meanders on its course. Though aptly written, the script is overstuffed with topical quips and metaphysical questions that seem to be there just to prove how clever she can be.

Generally, this work might have been more effective if the run time were tightened and the production were treated as a busker-style performance, as it lends itself well to an eclectic and showboating style. The play has good intentions, but we don’t get the satisfaction of it finding freedom in rebellion.

Details:

  • Earth Tourist plays at the Factory Theatre Studio space located at 125 Bathurst St
  • Tickets are $12. 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 Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • 80 minute runtime.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
  • Seating capacity is 100 persons
  • Content Warnings: Recommended for patrons aged 14 and up.

Performances:

7th July 7:00pm
8th July 10:45pm
10th July 8:45pm
11th July 10:15pm
13th July 12:15pm
15th July 1:45pm
16th July 5:30pm

Photo by Noah Bender