Have you ever wanted a makeover? Someone to help you change your look and your life? After watching The Makeover Show produced by Avalonstorm and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, you might think twice about it. The play is a funny and moving look at one woman’s real-life appearance on a reality TV makeover show and the challenges and power of such an experience.The Makeover Show is performed in the Monsieur Barbershop and Spa on Bloor Street. It’s a fabulous location filled with baroque mirrors, sparkling chandeliers, and beautiful vintage barber chairs. (It’s also air-conditioned, which was very nice on this hot summer night.) The audience is immersed in the action, following the performers around the salon as they move about the space. I loved the intimacy and feeling like I was part of the action.
Alysa (Alysa Golden) has brought her 16-year-old son for a haircut. While she (and we) are waiting, a woman (Jane Smythe) enters and offers to give someone in the group the chance to be transformed into the person they really want to be. Alysa, who has spent the last 16 years caring for her twin children, decides it is time to do something for herself and accepts. The audience watches as Jane whisks Alysa from chair to chair as she tries to “fix” her hair, skin, and teeth. She’s determined to change her from a frumpy, hippie mom to a hip and fashionable business owner despite Alysa’s refusal to accept dental veneers.
Alysa is torn between wanting the external validation she gets from her new hair and clothes and her sense that all of it is artificial. She’s swept up in the excitement but not sure it’s what she really wants. Jane is a slightly over the top caricature. She mixes withering criticism and insults with words of encouragement and support. Both women are really funny. The scene when Jane tries to inject Alysa’s face with two large syringes was hilarious.
Alysa Golden actually was a participant on the Canadian reality TV show Style by Jury in 2004, clips of which are shown during the play. I found it fascinating and somewhat horrifying to realize that many of the cruelest and cringiest comments about Alysa were lifted verbatim from the episode. For me, seeing the clips really highlighted some of the ridiculous things we are willing to do for the sake of external beauty and how often we are judged by appearance.
I really enjoyed The Makeover Show. It made me laugh, and it made me think. A great combination and a great way to spend an hour at Fringe.
- The Makeover Show plays at the Monsieur Barber Shop. (415 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: Audience participation; Unconventional venue.
- 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, 9:00 pm
- Thursday July 5th, 9:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 9:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 8:30 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 7:30 pm
- Monday July 9th, 9:00 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 9:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 9:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 9:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 9:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 8:30 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 7:30 pm
Photo of Alysa Golden and Jane Smythe by Gilles Gagnon