Sarah and Lucy (Runaway Hotel Kollective) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review

Nicole Fairbairn and Irena Huljak in Sarah and Lucy

Runaway Hotel Kollective presents Sarah and Lucy now playing at the Toronto Fringe. Sarah and Lucy is based on Trailer Park Boys, narrowing its focus on the two titular characters. As a card-carrying fan of the series, I was excited to see this show. In the same vein as the creators of this piece, I agree that Sarah and Lucy are (Sarah) and were (Lucy) criminally underused characters, often being used to move the story along rather than being properly developed.

Actress Lucy DeCoutere left Trailer Park Boys after season 10, and at the start of season 11 her character was hurriedly written off. The main characters of the show explain, through conversation and talking heads, that she moved to the USA.

Sarah and Lucy, the play, takes place in the Trailer Park Boys universe, developing a non-canon story of Sarah (Nicole Fairbairn) and Lucy’s (Irena Huljak) reunion. At the top of the show, Sarah picks up Lucy as she tries to avoid American border patrol – we learn that Lucy resided in the US illegally.

Over the course of the show, the two characters explore their history together and what they’ve been up to since parting. While on their journey the two characters must re-examine the strength of their friendship.

My favourite part of this show is the chemistry between Fairbairn and Huljak. The actors’ dynamic presence does justice to the close onscreen friendship of Sarah and Lucy. When they reunite at the top of the show, it’s so obvious that they’re picking up where they left off.

Unfortunately, however, I didn’t really enjoy this show. I felt like the story moved along at a slow pace, often resulting in my attention drifting away from what was happening on stage. I appreciated the moments between Fairbairn and Huljak as Sarah and Lucy but felt like they were needlessly broken up by appearances by other Trailer Park Boys characters. I feel like these appearances did little to move the story along, and scenes with them dragged on.

I think this show made creative use of both lighting and sound design, but in the second half of the show, the company stopped employing sound design altogether. There were a few moments in the show (notably, the plot’s climax) in which I thought effective sound design could have enhanced the story, and I felt confused by its absence.

I don’t believe this show is accessible for people who have not seen the TV series. I found the references to be quite esoteric. If you are a fan of Trailer Park Boys, you may get a kick out of some of the jokes, but if you’ve never seen the series, the premise may be lost on you.

Finally, while not part of the performance, I take issue with one part of my experience watching this show. Most companies at Fringe open their performances with a land acknowledgement, intended to signal Fringe’s part in the ongoing colonial project of Canada. In speaking with other folks who have participated in Fringe, I’ve learned that land acknowledgements are to be done with someone on stage and not as part of the performance.

Before the show this evening, someone in the technical booth spoke into a microphone, simply saying, “we would like to acknowledge this land as the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee and the Mississaugas”. This message felt like it was delivered with the same conviction as a “viewer discretion” message on TV, giving me cause to believe the company has done little to reflect on the importance of land acknowledgements and what they mean to them. Land acknowledgements are intended to give the audience an opportunity to reflect, but this felt procedural. Again, while not part of the performance itself, this left a poor taste in my mouth at the outset of the performance.

Details

  • Sarah and Lucy plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman 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; not recommended for children.
  • This venue is barrier-free. Patrons who use wheelchairs or who cannot climb stairs are seated 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, 8:15 pm
  • Saturday July 6th, 10:30 pm
  • Sunday July 7th, 3:45 pm
  • Monday July 8th, 2:30 pm
  • Thursday July 11th, 4:30 pm
  • Friday July 12th, 7:45 pm
  • Sunday July 14th, 4:15 pm

Photo of Nicole Fairbairn and Irena Huljak by Blair Williams

2 thoughts on “Sarah and Lucy (Runaway Hotel Kollective) 2019 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. Thank you so much for coming to the opening night of the first play I’ve ever written! I want express how much gratitude I have for your insightful words. It’s wonderful to be reviewed on such a professional scale ( even though I had never developed this script because no grants were offered to me). Its even more wonderful that my play is in the ring with the “big boys”. I took a lot of time to think about everything that you wrote. I agree with a lot of it. You have great insight. Further more i worked in theatre in the U.S. for the last several years. I did a lot of theater in Toronto back in early 2000s and the 90s when there were no land acknowledgement. As I understand the land acknowledgement is just a recent development. It’s still a bit new. Some of us might get it right. Some of us might get it wrong. Some of us might think we’re getting it right but actually getting it all wrong. We are all learning. Words are extremely powerful particularly when they come in print. You must know that as an artist yourself. The land acknowledgement that I used in my show was spoken over the speaker ,and not in person, at The Nutcracker performance done by the National Ballet of Canada last December. I stress over the speaker and not in person. I guess I got it all wrong. And maybe the National Ballet of Canada also got it wrong as well. One of us should let them know. If you were so upset by it, next time you’re welcome to talk to me. Some words that you might have used in your review could have been “It was handled inappropriately”. But rather you went on for two paragraphs and then added the word POOR TASTE ass-u-me-ing that I did it maliciously and didn’t care. The way you handled this particular section of your own review could be seen as being handled inappropriately by an artist. Particularly an artist who understands the power of the written word. Oh another thing, please don’t sit so close to the front and type on your cell phone during g the performance. The blue light distracted my lead actress during the entire performance. I look forward to reading your future reviews.

  2. All our writers are reminded to sit back a bit, and to take notes in a discreet way in a small notebook. Nonetheless, based on this comment I checked in with the writer, just in case it was her on using the phone. She assured me it was not.

    I’m very sorry that happened to you folks during your performance, it would indeed be very distracting. Hopefully, whoever that was has since gotten a polite nudge and been told how disruptive it is.

    All the best in the rest of your Fringe.

    Megan Mooney
    Publisher, Mooney on Theatre

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