Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Tarrare: A story of hunger (Fringe)

The Hunger
by Jason Booker
What do you do if your hunger is so insatiable that you can’t stop eating? You eat rats, bones, anything available to you. And what if you are a peasant in pre-Revolutionary France too? That is the unpleasant situation Tarrare finds himself in. And yes, he does eat his way out.

Tarrare (John Fray with an accent that can’t be placed), discovered by an enterprising mountebank, Alfonso the Great, becomes part of a sideshow. Once he falls in love with Alfonso’s assistant/niece (Cydney Penner), Tarrare hungers for another life. He yearns for a cure to his appetite, which Alfonso promises him in America. Naturally, as with most mountebanks, his words (wittily delivered by Scott Clarkson) are empty promises designed purely to keep himself in business.
The plot clips along nicely for the first half, transitions involving music and shadow play are innovative and the performances are amusingly droll. With Cat Haywood’s design on a budget beautifully evoking a France of over two centuries ago.
However, once Tarrare and crew make it to Paris, the tone of the play shifts to something darker, which yes, does include some consumption of humans. The play feels a bit more cobbled together in the later half, slowing down to show emotional scenes instead of dramatic ones. Possibly there is just more story in Liam Volke’s play than could fit into the Fringe. That said, if one craves a darker morsel to snack on, Tarrare provides a feast.

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