In Recall (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival), the government has developed a series of tests which it believes can identify “pre-violent” people. This is well-trodden sci-fi territory, as old as Asimov.
Recall pushes the technology to the periphery, focusing instead on a cluster of characters: a subject, an accessory, an investigator, a bystander, and a wildcard. These characters are thrown together in various configurations, and as information flows between them, the story sneaks up behind us.
At least, that’s how I got into it: Madryn McCabe’s researcher somehow reminded me of a twisted Miss Frizzle, all that curiosity and verve and charisma turned to more nefarious ends; Kyla Young anchors the production as the girl everybody’s talking about, despite her attempts to sweep into the shadows; and Genevieve Adam steals just about every scene as a sweet-talking spitfire of a mother.
As for the show itself, I really admired their decision to take their concept a notch further than most treatments. Many pieces which explore these themes are content to glibly proclaim that conviction without crime is unethical, but Recall peels off in two directions. On the one hand, they show us how small indiscretions, particularly among young people, get magnified and twisted by this kind of surveillance — but they also remind us that, while “pre-violent” may sound like nonsense, if the system works as designed, it saves lives and prevents truly gory and horrific crimes. In the universe Recall paints, we aren’t weighting hypotheticals, we’re dealing with real blood on the real walls, and this makes it much more difficult to take refuge in detached moralizing.
There are places where the production wobbles, and a few concepts and characters who take a few minutes to really stick. There are plot threads I’d have liked to see pulled harder, and a few points which feel like fridge logic once you’re out of the theatre.
But we also forget how hard it is to do sci-fi and thrillers at Fringe: this is a fusion of two of the most challenging genres to pull off, and it had the audience on the edge of their seats right until the curtain call.
- Recall plays at The Theatre Centre’s Franco Boni Theatre. (1115 Queen St. W.)
- 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: Gunshots, Realistic Violence or Gore, Mature Language.
- This venue is accessible.
- Friday July 7th, 01:45 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 09:15 pm
- Monday July 10th, 03:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 12:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 14th, 11:00 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 06:15 pm
Photograph of Warren Kang & Kyla Young by Will King