The Weight Of It All (Haggard B) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

poster image for The Weight of it All - a cartoon of feet on a scale in a pink bathroom. In the wastebasket a race number and a pregnancy test are visible.

The Weight Of It All, a show about weight and diet culture at this year’s Toronto Fringe, attempts to combine a critique of diet culture, a body-positive message, modern dance, original music, sensitive discussion of infertility, and much more to the stage. So much more, in fact, that I felt it didn’t quite stand up under the weight.

Here’s the thing about The Weight Of It All — I didn’t think it was really a good show. It’s the beginnings of four different good shows, all smushed together into a single Fringe hour. It feels organized roughly like the mix tapes I used to make in Grade 8 in which musical whiplash was the entire point. I was entranced by my own “eclectic” taste in music and I showed it off by putting a Billy Joel track right after a Violent Femmes track and if you didn’t like it, tough.

In this case, performer Gillian Bartolucci has obviously got a lot of talent.

The Weight Of It All includes: about ten minutes of blisteringly funny bits about weight loss and diet culture that could go immediately to the writers room at Saturday Night Live and probably should.

There’s five intensely felt minutes of mixed spoken-word and modern dance about waiting for cancer results good enough for a Canada Council grant right now.

Then there are the first 20 minutes of a very bookable middle-school assembly show about diet and weight loss.

And also, about fifteen minutes of a Patron’s Pick in the Tarragon Solo Room about in/fertility.

As individual pieces they’re all interesting. As a single show, they made me want to dump every note card onto the table and re-arrange.

Director Carly Heffernan does well helping Bartolucci find the full flavor of each moment, but the ingredients don’t combine well; I had a sort of theatrical indigestion afterwards. I want a solo show to have an arc, or a story, or even to be firmly and decisively post-story, but I found this to be more “a broad theme around which some bits are loosely arranged.” I find I cannot strongly recommend it in the current incarnation, but if any of these cuttings takes root and grows I’d bet money on it being good.

This review is based on the July 4 preview performance of the production.

Details

  • The Weight Of It All plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
  • 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 Warnings: mature language; sexual content; audience participation; not recommended for children.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the front row.
  • 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.

Performances

  • Thursday July 4th, 6:00 pm
  • Friday July 5th, 6:30 pm
  • Saturday July 6th, 3:15 pm
  • Sunday July 7th, 2:45 pm
  • Monday July 8th, 10:45 pm
  • Tuesday July 9th, 3:15 pm
  • Thursday July 11th, 8:00 pm
  • Saturday July 13th, 4:30 pm

image provided by the company; art by Emily Richardson

4 thoughts on “The Weight Of It All (Haggard B) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. It’s a solo sketch show. Being bothered that sketch isn’t narrative is an interesting take for a reviewer. “Why isn’t this sitcom a procedural drama?” Think whatever you want of the show, but understand what you are going to see.

  2. “a broad theme around which some bits are loosely arranged.” … So a sketch show? Which is what this show is. Strange to loved the sketches as much as you did and still not recommend it because it’s not a play.

    I personally adored it. You seem to have been in the audience on opening preview…which received a standing ovation. Did you stay sitting during that?

  3. As much as it is possible to do so, I want to weigh in here taking off my editor/publisher hat.

    With that in mind, I’m going to preface what I’m saying with: I haven’t talked to the writer of the article at all before saying this. Also, it isn’t an official editorial response (not because the publication wouldn’t stand behind what is in it, but simply because these comments are just people expressing their thoughts and don’t require an official response per se)

    Reading the review, and contrasting it with the comments, made me go to the official blurb for the piece. I was curious about whether it was made clear or not that this was a sketch piece in the world of Fringe’s sea of one-person shows. I mean, let’s face it, the Fringe one-person show is such trope it’s a joke in itself (anyone else remember the Shehori’s and Marco Timpano’s One Woman Show?)

    I felt like it wasn’t because I remember seeing if I could fit it into my schedule when planning what I was going to see (fat folks unite!) but I couldn’t unfortunately (fringe folks unite?). When I saw Gary’s comment about it being a solo-sketch show, I was surprised but didn’t have time to investigate further. The stunning conclusion to my investigation is, dun dun dun… There was nothing in the blurb about it being a sketch show. It read like it was going to be a funny one person show with lots of different stuff in it.

    And, that brings me to an interesting thing about Fringe. Those little blurbs set the tone for what people expect going into a show, but here’s the rub: those expectations people have set the tone for their experience.

    I can’t help but wonder a few things. First, would Bear’s experience of the show have been different if he was expecting a sketch show instead of a one-person show? And second, would he have chosen to review it still if he knew it was a sketch show?

    What I will say, based on my reading of this review and the comments, is that it sounds to me that if you are someone steeped in the comedy world, and especially if you are expecting this to be a sketch show, it is clear that this is what this is. But if you are not, and you are expecting a ‘one-person show’, perhaps the presentation that it is a sketch show (not a ‘one-person’ one), and that’s something I would want to know as an artist personally. – To be clear, I haven’t seen it; I’m basing that on my reading of, well, basically what is available here.

    I know seems like a lot of response to two comments, but it actually spills over from a few conversations I’ve had this year about how expectations for a show influence how we see a show. It’s kind of more a response to that, and it’s been bubbling up and needed an outlet, so here it is.

    Too bad I don’t have some kind of publication or something where I could write and publish something about it… 😛

    Okay, I suppose I should go put my editor hat back on. Oh, wait, my kids want food – greedy bastards – so, I suppose first my parent hat, then my editor hat. Someday my sleep hat. Oh, sleep hat. zzzzzzzzzz

  4. Hello!

    Just wanted to weigh in because this review is obtuse and incorrect.

    The pieces do not have to fit a linear narrative to all live within the same theme, and collectively they all serve the larger point about women’s bodies (weight, fertility, expectations placed on women – imagine being a woman and dealing with all of those things all at the same time… kind of like… this show does…). It is irrelevant whether or not it defines itself as a sketch show in the blurb, because sketch is theatre. Not all theatre follows a linear narrative either. What a concept!

    This was a fantastic show, well-written, impeccably executed, smart, dark, very funny, and brilliantly performed. I was there on opening night – it got a standing ovation.

    To even say the words “I cannot recommend this” is lazy and harmful for a show that deserves much more.

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