Bro Diaries produced by Fish Bar Productions playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival showcases a charming cast and comedic writing that explores the pitfalls of masculinity and modern relationships, culminating in a show with its heart in the right place, but perhaps not the right medium.
University was not exactly my favourite period of life; I didn’t party, didn’t do well in class and didn’t make a lot of friends. I was also confronted by a lot of my entitlements, privilege and prejudices and while I didn’t appreciate it at the time I’m certainly glad that I learned a lot from those experiences, even if it took me a while to figure it out.
Bro Diaries, written and directed by Mackenzie Parrot makes an effort to capture a more ‘traditional’ University life full of parties, barely making it to class and, of course, sex. Focusing primarily on Brad, a would-be “Bro”, the show explores his developing relationship with a girl, Antoinette, as well as his friendships with his fellow Bros, confronting his attitudes towards sex, love and friendship along the way.
The show is primarily a comedy and confidently blends both wit, embarrassment humour and sitcom tropes to relatively good effect, and the actors are able to deliver the jokes with solid timing while still remaining grounded. Brad especially was able to navigate a fine line between endearing doofus and self-entitled jerk that kept him relatable but still gave the audience and script room to criticize him.
Referencing the sitcom tropes however I think something should be brought up. There were multiple occasions where I wondered if this was originally pitched for film or television; there were many scene transitions that consisted of all actors leaving the stage and the lights going out leaving a bare stage for a few seconds before the next scene began, often with the exact same actors. In a filmed setting this would simply be a cut transition and things would progress rather smoothly, but on stage it killed the momentum and continuity of the scenes and I often felt like things had a start-stop energy that kept breaking me out of the story.
The ending was something I also struggled with; it felt more like the end of a first act as opposed to a full conclusion, like there was more to the story, but when the lights came up and the actors bowed I couldn’t help but wonder if this was because the show was originally supposed to have a series follow it.
That all being said there’s some potential in Bro Diaries and I think the solid cast and clear talent in Parrot’s dialogue writing give it enough foundation to be entertaining, and at only 50 minutes it’s a nice bite sized piece of Fringe that can easily be part of a full day’s experience at the Festival.
As a note, Bro Diaries is a “Relaxed” performance as you may notice on the Fringe site; this basically means that audience members are welcome to stand, move around, go to the washroom or even step outside during the show. While I didn’t need this personally it definitely is nice for folks who can’t sit for extended periods or haveother physical impairments. So while latecomers are still not getting in, for those who do arrive on time there’s some flexibility in how you watch the show.
- Bro Diaries plays at The Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Mature language; Sexual content; Audience participation, Parental guidance advised; Relaxed Performance.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
Wednesday, 4th July 6:30pm
Friday, 6th July 10:30pm
Sunday, 8th July 4:00pm
Tuesday, 10th July 12:30pm
Wednesday, 13th July 12:00pm
Thursday, 14th July 7:30pm
Friday, 15th July 4:00pm
Production image provided by company