Show Your Flames is a one-man absurdist comedy show, expressively embodied by Devin Sanclamente playing at the Toronto Fringe . If an easy, relaxing show is what you’re after: look elsewhere. Sanclamente keeps us guessing (and sometimes even confused), but ultimately he uniquely entertains in this theatrical journey of manic precision.
One gets the impression that Sanclamente is aiming for a highly stylized, absurd comedy show. Instead, this show comes off as an absurdist performance art piece with explicit stand-up influence. This is not a standard bit at Yuk-Yuk’s.
I find that distinction quite lovely and for whatever reason, this show fills me with a sort of pride at what theatre can accomplish. The marriage of these two forms in the context of the ancient-feeling Annex Theatre feels like an honouring of theatre history and a challenge of theatre conventions all at once.
If that sounds a bit brainy, that’s because it is. I was attracted to this show in the first place for its reference to Bo Burnham (an exquisite absurd comic). The style draws in a person who likes to think and mentally stretch in their seat.
That’s not to say this show isn’t a good time for everyone. Indeed, even if all you leave the theatre with is the question, “What on earth did I just watch?” this show is a wild trip worth taking.
Burnham’s influence was perhaps the most evident in Sanclamente’s sporadic exploration of song, movement, vocal manipulation, and classic stand-up jokes.
The downside of this influence is that I continually held Sanclamente up to Burnham’s example in my mind. It took me until the end of the show to realize that I liked what I saw.
Through these many mediums, we’re led to contemplate such enduring themes as insecurity, identity, and freedom. We’re effortlessly plunged into the philosophical deep end and jolted back out with goofy shticks.
The first ten minutes, all I could think was, “I’m confused.” Granted, I went into this show very hungry, so focus was not my strength. Once I adjusted to his conventions, I eventually found our soloist charmingly confident.
A few moments of audience participation didn’t land particularly well. It’s hard to get a mob mentality going when the mob is only 4 people large. I imagine with a fuller house, these moments would work.
I applaud Sanclamente’s refusal to allow this small house to rule his performance. He was larger than life no matter what. That level of commitment shows belief in yourself, and makes us believe, too.
The sound design in this show was nonstop, meticulous, and highly commendable. Sanclamente would sometimes miss his neurotically timed sound cues, but this improved as the show went on.
A powerful scene involving realistic fake blood leaves remnants throughout the remainder of the show. Those who are very sensitive should proceed with caution.
All in all, I walk away from this show (and into another!) feeling a bit spoiled to be among the select few who thought to give this show a go. I have a mental list of people to recommend it to, and I’ll bet you will, too.
- Show Your Flames plays at the Annex Theatre. (736 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.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Realistic Violence or Gore, Audience Participation, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route which requires a staff escort. Check in at the box office at least 20 minutes prior to showtime.
- Wednesday July 5th, 06:30 pm
- Friday July 7th, 03:00 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 08:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 09:45 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 12:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 05:45 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 01:45 pm
Photo of Devin Sanclamente by Nikki Loehr