Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: (Toronto) High Life

Mike Ross, Michael Hanrahan, Oliver Dennis & Diego Matamoros
(photo: Michael Cooper)

A Brotherhood of Men
Testosterone fills the iconic High Life
by Beat Rice

Something strange about us humans is that we like watching people get up to no good. The Canadian work, High Life, directed by Stuart Hughes, is a testosterone fueled play with an all male cast of four who plan to execute a bank heist. The core group of Dick, Bug, and Donnie, played by Diego Matamoros, Michael Hanrahan, and Oliver Dennis, are old friends with a history of petty crimes, heavy drug use and jail time. Newcomer Billy, played by Mike Ross, is also an addict and claims to have a criminal history but has never done time. The need for Billy for the heist creates conflict within the group.
We are watching a brotherhood of criminals as well as a brotherhood of actors.

Lee MacDougall’s script is not entirely original and theatrically speaking there is nothing new or innovative. But it does not need to be. It's funny, and the actors carry the tension and comedy that keep you alert as anything can happen. It's purely entertainment. There are dark elements however, such as the heavy use of heroin and other drugs. We even witness them prepare their drugs and shoot each other up. As gross as it sounds it was a lot of fun to watch the audience have a collective cringe during those moments. The actors work so well with each other. We are watching a brotherhood of criminals as well as a brotherhood of actors. They feed off each other’s energy and show us that there can be comedy in the horrific. 
During the performance I saw, the show had to stop after about 45 minutes due to an emergency with two patrons in the house. House lights were brought up and ambulances were called to the theatre. Front of House did a great job in communicating with the audience during the 25 minute break. The actors then came on stage, backtracked in the action slightly, and then continued with the play. I commend them all for their professionalism. At the end of the bows Michael Hanrahan thanked the audience for their patience and then informed us that this was the third time a show has been stopped that week. Speculative patrons murmured about the use of herbal cigarettes causing a physical reaction in some people.
High Life is a good play to bring a new theatre-goer to. It is entertaining, simple, and not overly thought- provoking. Be warned though, herbal cigarettes, haze, and foul language is used heavily.
High Life presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company
Written by Lee MacDougall
Directed by Stuart Hughes

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