Review: Marine Life (Tarragon)

Environmentally conscious theatre lights up the Tarragon stage in Toronto

Marine Life is an original romantic dramedy written and directed by Rosa Labordé, about a dysfunctional activist who falls for a selfish lawyer and persuades him to change his ways. It’s a cute, funny play with a great message to take home, encouraging the audience to be empathetic and caring activists. Marine Life is playing at Tarragon Theatre and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

My guest Arun and I walked into a beautifully decorated theatre, with recycled clam shell containers hung up all over, and huge projections on the walls and floors. The projector is used throughout the show to create some really fantastic effects.

There are a few instances in the show where the tech feels a bit awkward, usually in the form of projections with low resolution, but I really appreciate how ambitious it is. This is a beautiful show, with a clear artistic vision that stuck with me afterwards.

Environmentally conscious theatre is nice, but one thing that always comes to my mind viewing shows like Marine Life is that the majority of the people seeing these smaller productions are probably familiar with the values they encourage. The demographic that would come out to see Marine Life at Tarragon likely knows about climate change and the importance of conservation.

So what I appreciate is that this show explores how environmentally conscious people share their values with others. Even if her activism is extreme to the point of being dysfunctional, I find that I can empathize with a character like Sylvia, portrayed wonderfully by Nicola Correia-Damude. What impresses me about this show is how it lets me empathize with an uncaring character like Rupert as well.

The Rupert we meet at the show’s outset is very well performed by Matthew Edison; he’s charming and funny, but also an ass. He’s a typical product of privilege, hardly the worst person in the world so we understand why Sylvia is giving him a chance, but pretty selfish nonetheless. Over the course of the show, we come to understand him better and see how someone like him can be motivated to change. It’s optimistic, and motivates the viewers towards activism.

Justin Rutledge blows me away as John (or Juan, as he prefers), Sylvia’s mentally ill brother. I did feel that the focus on this character bogged down the plot at times, but that’s not to knock Rutledge’s performance, which is my favourite by far. His character also serves an important symbolic purpose, connecting our treatment of others with how we approach environmental activism.

Another thing that’s great about this show is that it’s genuinely funny leaving the audience laughing throughout. There’s a great balance of serious drama, and memorable comedy. Each character is given moments to shine in both ways.

I don’t love the ending though; that’s really my only gripe with this show. You see, what I appreciate most about Marine Life is that up until the end, it’s a fairly grounded character study. The zany characters feel like exaggerated versions of people you’ll meet in real life. In the last act, this goes out the window. Some serious events take place, but they felt surreal to me and fail to drive any point home that couldn’t have been addressed through subtler, more grounded interactions between characters.

That said, Arun (my guest) and I disagree strongly on this, and he enjoyed Marine Life through and through. But even with that criticism, I strongly recommend this show. It’s a fantastic new piece of theatre and will leave you genuinely touched with the warm fuzzies, and maybe a little bit of hope.


  • Marine Life is playing at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave) until December 17, 2017.
  • Showtimes are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8PM, with Wednesdays (1:30PM) and Sundays (2:30PM) matinees.
  • Tickets are $55 with Student ($29) and Senior ($49) discounts.
  • You can buy the tickets online or at the box office.
  • Run time is 75 minutes.
  • Audience Advisory: Contains crude language, depictions of attempted suicide, sexually explicit and mature themes.

Photo of Nicole Correia-Damude and Matthew Edison by Cylla Von-Tiedemann. 

One thought on “Review: Marine Life (Tarragon)”

  1. My husband and I and 6 friends went to see Marine Life and we all loved it. It is an extraordinary production and so funny and poignant. We thoroughly loved everything about this play!!! LRK Hamilton

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