Break-Up Diet is a raw autobiographical musical performance that takes its audience through a year in the life of writer/performer Tamara Williamson and the painful dissolution of her marriage. The performance flows through a series of nine chapters (it began its life as an audiobook), and charts the twenty-pound weight loss of the narrator, analogous to the loss of the life she knew.
Williamson offers a caveat at the beginning, suggesting her show might be too honest, too open. To me, that serves as an invitation rather than a warning.
The story is relatable and excruciating. It is simple, leaving room for a host of complicated feelings. What may or may not have been a good relationship ends at the onset of the husband’s midlife crisis. Both Williamson and her estranged husband are flawed and make decisions that negatively impact the family dynamic.
Williamson is accompanied by the band Mrs. Torrance. Not only do they play music but they also provide the show’s soundscape, from a door slammed in anger, to a rush of adrenaline, and the anxious, ominous sounds of a person making their way through spiritual darkness. Sarah Fazackerley, the newest addition to the band, stands out as a multi-talented, multi-instrumental singer/songwriter, who plays well off Williamson in short segments of dialogue.
I love performances that mix genres and hybridize forms. Break-Up Diet is the recipient of the 2019 Adams Award for Musical Theatre, but this is not musical theatre like you would expect. It’s raw and alternative. It sugar coats nothing and it does not tidy itself up for a happy ending. If you’ve ever gone through a break-up, this show just might dredge up those dreadful memories.
Throughout the performance, I kept thinking that it really sucks to be the person who’s left in a break-up. Feelings of depression, despair, and loneliness are terrible and overwhelming. But, as I was leaving the theatre, I had the thought that it might be even worse to be the inspiration for an award winning break-up musical.
Break-Up Diet delivers catharsis and proves how strong a force art is in the healing process.
- Break-Up Diet plays at the Robert Gill Theatre. (214 College 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 (275 Bathurst St.), 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 usage of a painfully slow elevator. We recommend making sure you arrive a few minutes early.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 7:45
- Saturday July 6th, 6:15 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 9:45 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 1:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 8:30 pm
- Friday July 12th, 9:45 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 1:45 pm
Photo of Tamara Williamson, Sarah Fazackerley, Chris Waller, and Steve Pitkin by Natalie Howard