Campfire’s offering in the Toronto Fringe Festival is Dominion, a story about nature and our place in it. Perched high above a national park, in their own distant watchtowers, two men discover their potential while the forest looms below.
Wyatt, a hardened, long-term park caretaker, takes newbie Johnathan under his wing. Wyatt is passionate about the wilderness, and his responsibility to protect the wildlife and campers. Johnathan is a writer, looking to have some time away from the daily grind of life to work on a novel. With a little condescension, but mostly kindness, Wyatt tries to prepare his underling and new partner for the job.
These characters are endearing and lovingly rendered by Cameron Smith (Wyatt) and Scott Murray (Johnathan). The camaraderie they develop feels natural, with a good balance between off-the-cuff banter and more poignant exchanges. It is clear that this is, deep down, far more than a job — there is something significant in their need to remove themselves from the daily grind of their lives.
Director and playwright Steven Griffin (with co-director Meghan Landers) has crafted a slow-burn, atmospheric and unabashedly allegorical piece. There is far more to the forest and their place in it than immediately apparent. With a strange, unidentified light appearing ominously overhead, it is clear that there are mysterious — perhaps sinister — forces at work in the park.
On a technical level, there were a handful of stilted moments sound-wise. The sound effects themselves are fine, but some of the transitions are choppy. The overall atmosphere is so persuasive, it’s a shame that some cues felt clumsy during the performance I saw.
Overall, I found Dominion thoroughly compelling and resonant. I am drawn to narratives where the audience is meant to intuit meaning and significance from contextual clues, so Griffin’s approach here appeals to me.
- Dominion plays at the Annex Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
- 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 Warning: Mature language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route which requires a staff escort. Check in at the box office at least 15 minutes prior to showtime.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Friday July 6th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 9:15 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 2:15 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 4:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 12:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 11:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 4:00 pm
Photo of Scott Murray by Steven Griffin.