From deep, deep within the dark zones of the Toronto subway system, a (literal) underground revolution is brewing, fronted by a metropass counterfeiting ring that puts Toronto’s commuters in mild danger of delay. There’s only one team capable of putting on the breaks: the (technically disbanded) TTC transit police. These Special Constables, if you will, are here to save the city at the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival—but the conspiracy goes even deeper than you might think.
This is the sort of show that wears its big, goofy heart on its sleeve. It’s sheer fun from beginning to end, with Jameson (Daniel Pagett) dragging his former TTC cop buddies into one last case. It pulls a lot from gritty cop dramas, with the gag being that none of the stakes ever really rise beyond medium-speed streetcar chases and grumpy, inconvenienced customers.
The whole thing has a wry goofball charm, with absurdities played utterly straight. The characters are all archetypes—the fist-slinging meathead, the by-the-book stickler, the speech-making criminal mastermind—but therein lies much of the fun. The humour comes mainly from seeing these familiar tropes in a distinctly Torontonian setting (particularly, 2012 Toronto), and it works.
Chase scenes and failed robberies typical of the genre are conducted here with clever stagework. There isn’t much in the way of sets or props, so actors take turns serving as subway cars, streetcars, and other necessary bits and bobs. There’s a lot of fast action, changing scenes and moving parts that require a lot of organization on stage, and Alec Toller’s direction keeps it coherent.
I attended the very first performance of the run, and as such, the wheels felt a little shaky at times. The pacing is quick, which means that little stumbles over lines or flubbed timing have a habit of standing out. This strikes me as something that will iron itself out as the run progresses, and the cast is broadly charismatic enough to bounce back from any stumbles without lessening the charm of the show.
In particular, Conor Bradbury is hilarious as Stokes, the cop whose world revolves around who he can punch next, who plays the meathead with complete unrepentance. Nigel Downer’s turn as the criminal mastermind Three Tone is also great, as he manages to look sinister and dignified even as he sips on a juice box of apple juice. Nelu Handa, Chloe Sullivan and Mikaela Dyke are each effortlessly funny in turn, while Pagett carries the show ably as the hapless, down-on-his-luck Jameson. There’s not a weak link among them.
Despite some moments of shakiness, this show is tremendous fun from start to finish. I tend to gauge comedies by how often I laugh and how hard those laughs are, and I was cracking up pretty consistently throughout. As a distinctively Canadian take on the cop drama, this is one caper not to be missed.
- Special Constables plays at the Factory Mainspace. (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.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Audience Participation, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route.
- Friday July 7th, 01:00 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 06:30 pm
- Monday July 10th, 03:15 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 10:00 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 09:15 pm
- Friday July 14th, 12:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 03:30 pm
Photo of Connor Bradbury, Daniel Pagett, and Mikaela Dyke by Alec Toller.