Swallowed Whole (at the Toronto Fringe Festival) is a Second City-style sketch revue, written entirely by surrealist Rachel Parry. The result is as off-kilter and unpredictable as you’d expect: it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a blend unlike anything else you’ll find at the festival.
The acting trio (Carly Telford, Chris O’Bray and Raechel Fisher) have a “fuck perfect, make it fun” vibe that really helps to sell the material. Telford gets an especially good turn as a deeply disgusting bro; O’Bray elevates a series of sketches which imagine Julia Child in a strapless dress; and Fisher got the biggest laugh at the night out of a totally throwaway game-show gag.
They are selling the material, though. There are some clever ideas in the book, but for a show of this length, there’s also a lot of iteration. The problem with iterating within the same frame is that you need to top your last result every time, but from where I sat, in some cases the first kick at a sketch was the strongest version.
The energy’s absolutely there, and the audience wants this company to succeed: they win us over at the very beginning and keep us in their back pocket. I also want to commend this company for taking on material as far-reaching and risky as they do: you won’t find an airport-security sketch in this lineup, nor a ukelele number about douchebags, a skit driven by autocorrect, or an improv exercise which has been re-labelled as scripted comedy.
The show may still be in its “weird phase”, but it’s braver and bolder than what you’re probably used to seeing, and you really couldn’t hope for better performers to deliver it.
- Swallowed Whole plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. George 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 Warnings: mature language; sexual content; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- 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.
- Sunday July 7th, 1:15 pm
- Monday July 8th, 6:00 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 10:30 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 5:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 6:45 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 8:00 pm
Photograph of Carly Telford Chris O’Bray and Raechel Fisher by Laura-Kate Dymond.