I was excited going into the play, as I had read great reviews from its previous appearances at the Melbourne, Montreal, and Wellington Fringe Festivals. Early on in the production, I could tell this play wasn’t for me.
As someone who studies children’s literature, to me fairy tale tropes are two dimensional devices that move a very lesson-driven plot along. The same goes for fairy tale characters; they have little interior life and act simply as vehicles of plot.
This works in a traditional fairy tale because they are so short and to the point. Untitled No. 7 is fifty minutes long, during which time the production relies exclusively on fairy tale tropes and imagery. With that much time to fill, I felt like the plot sagged with no depth to hold it up.
I found it difficult to empathize with Daria’s plight because the story was entirely couched in fairy tale metaphors. Without specificity or character development, the production has the cadence of a fairy tale without the emotional investment.
Daria’s journey through life is told as a walk through darks woods. Her “cloak of belief,” which is also a curse, leads her down the wrong paths. Her doubt and fear appear as pixies. And all of this is cut up with what I think were mostly lip-synced musical numbers.
The music didn’t add anything to the production for me. The ironically cheery songs repeated the message of the story, but didn’t embellish the performance. The one piece of interpretive dance, staged as cathartic humour, didn’t feel connected to the rest of the play. That being said, my favourite song was the punk rager against Walt Disney.
Despite all the issues I had, writer and performer Telia Neville is obviously hugely invested in the story, the message, and the art of performance. Near the end she has an intimate heart to heart with the audience that stood out as the highlight of the piece.
The writing itself was impressively in the vein of fairy tale storytelling. I understand what Neville is trying to achieve with this play. While it doesn’t work for me, I do think her message and her bright personality shine through regardless.
- Untitled No. 7 plays at the St. Vladimir Institute. (620 Spadina 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 Warning: mature language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. After the building’s business hours, a staff member will need to escort you through this route, so plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for evening shows.
- 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.
- Friday July 5th, 4:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 6:15 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 2:45 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 10:15 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 8:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 2:15 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 5:00 pm
Image of Telia Nevile provided by the artist