This one is tricky for me: I wanted to love Mrs. Mama’s House . From the site-specific description SomeCompanyTO provided to the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival, it promises to be “nursery rhyme magic with a Grimm twist” at the Bata Shoe Museum. And all those details appeal to my whimsical sensibility, but this show isn’t one size fits all.
Upon rereading the description post-show, I caught that it’s actually “site-informed” – seeing as it is a retelling of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, the show heavily involves footwear but doesn’t really interact with the space.
In fact, seated in four rows of seats without any staggering of chairs or raised platforms, sightlines were occasionally an issue. But the show could easily have taken place in a theatre with its static, proscenium-style staging.
I also didn’t initially realize that “an absurd retelling” would mean absurdist theatre. I had hoped it would be more screwball comedy, rather than a humourless existential experiment, where little happens and the repetitious language is generally meaningless. It felt as if one brief idea was stretched into the fifty minute running time.
The piece involves Mama (Natalie Semotiuk) ruling over three trunks and a scattering of footwear. From these trunks emerge the “mice”, the rest of the cast, to frantically polish shoes, take inventory, wait for their meager meal and dream of escape. When the dreams become too real and Laars “misses Mama’s house”, he is rudely awakened.
The strangest choice that writer Nathaniel Kingham made was to use the chorus of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomand as both a quaint ditty and a key plot point regarding high and low roads. Why employ a traditional Scottish melody when the setting seemed generic and banal throughout?
Definitely not a show recommended for children due to the language and violence, I would suggest bringing a sweater to deal with the strong air conditioning preserving the museum’s exhibits.
Go into Mrs. Mama’s House knowing what it is, you canny theatre-types.
- Mrs. Mama’s House plays at the Bata Shoe Museum. (327 Bloor St. W.)
- 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: Realistic violence or gore; Mature language.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 7:00 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 7:00 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 7:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 7:00 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 7:00 pm
Photo of the Bata Shoe Museum by Philip Castleton