Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Spoon (Fringe)

Queer as cutlery
Psycho-sexual chills abound in romantic thriller
by Christian Baines

One of the most intriguing and challenging works of this year’s Fringe, Spoon is a play spawned from gender theory that attempts to find its voice in the language of psychological thrillers. If Polanski had written a Queer fourth instalment to his apartment trilogy, Spoon could very well qualify. Andrew and Charles have just moved in together, only to find their perceptions of their respective roles within the relationship aren’t quite what they seemed. 

Suspend disbelief for the moment that these two men would move in together without establishing, or at least being aware of these dynamics. Spoon swings happily from the disturbingly violent to the perversely erotic. But more than just titillating, writer and actor Spencer Charles Smith has created a work that attacks our preconceived notions of gender within the scope of a budding relationship. Putting it in that context turns a commonly beaten topic into something much more interesting. Far from a ‘you can’t define me’ whine, there is a profound sense of these characters being trapped within their own expectations and self-perceptions, which sabotage their relationship. There is no tedious blaming of ‘the other’ here, resulting in a work that’s not just brave but never attempts to moralize.

Smith and Owen Fawcett are terrific as the couple in the centre of this ugly dynamic, giving honest, intensely physical performances. Complimenting them is Katie Sly in a range of roles, most notably gender performance theorist Judith Butler. Admittedly, this is where the work becomes a bit top-heavy, as Butler expounds at length the many thoughts and ideas that have informed Smith’s work. A little insight from Butler is helpful here and there, but long tracts ripped straight from a textbook add little. The truth is there’s such intelligence to Smith’s script that one often wishes he would just get back to the relationship at the centre of his story, because it’s more than capable of carrying the weight of his ideas with minimal exposition.

Ultimately, Spoon comes across as a play about individuals and couples finding their niche – their own course of mental and emotional evolution – on their own terms and in their own time. But it certainly takes some brilliantly perverse turns along the way. It’s great to find a work that’s willing to go there with such vulnerability and intelligence.

Spoon plays July 3-7, July 9-12 and July 14 at 8pm at Glad Day Bookshop.
Duration: 75mins

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