What could be a heart-wrenching and agonizing story is anything but. Singing to My Left Kidney, on stage during this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, is Ada Balon’s story, a tale about her kidney cancer diagnosis and how she learned to live on. Instead of being full of remorse and anguish, Balon approaches her story with often times raunchy comedy and song.
Balon has a background in music and it shows in her performance right from the beginning as she opens the show wrapped in a bed sheet belting “Endless Pleasure, Endless Love” from the opera Semele complete with her own additional lyrics. Far be it for someone with as extensive a musical background as her to not put song into her show, she punctuates her narrative with stunning moments of musical interludes.
Her one-woman show documents her life from the moment she felt something strange in her bladder, to her experiences getting tested, to her laparoscopic surgery and then her recovery. At each integral point she injects her experiences bombastic humour, animated imitations of those closest to her, from her parents to coworkers, the nurses she encounters and even the hot doctor.
Singing to My Left Kidney is a classic coming of age story. Balon has clearly overcome leaps and bounds to rebound from a life-threatening diagnosis to a place where she can find humour in her situations. Her strength that she backs each moment of her performance with is inspirational. Often it felt like she was telling someone else’s story and not her own.
There were a number of moments that I found particularly hilarious in a zany and outrageous way — her vaginal and pelvic examinations that were first described as feeling like ‘the worst sex you’ll ever have’ and were demonstrated for the audience in the form of bizarre synchronized swimming under a sheet. Likewise, her actual surgery was presented in a similar manner.
There were a few technical issues I noticed that I sum up to opening night jitters. Some of the lighting cues were off and there were a few times where Balon stumbled on her words. I found that when she adopted an accent and spoke fast her words became jumbled. When she sang, she was clearly in her element.
There were also a few times where the audience seemed to clearly get more out of her jokes than I did which I won’t fault Balon for, as it shows how individual comedy is. Singing to My Left Kidney is a great deal of fun and a joy to watch.
- Singing to My Left Kidney 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: Sexual Content, Fog, Mist or Haze Effects, Smoking, Audience Participation, Nudity, 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.
- Thursday July 6th, 06:30 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 12:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 06:15 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 04:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 11:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 01:45 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 05:45 pm
Photo of Ada Balon by Pip Dwyer