Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: (Toronto) TRIP (Fringe)

A three-pronged trip into purgatory...
...particularly for the audience.
by Christian Baines

There’s nothing wrong with a good anthology. A perfectly presentable, even highly entertaining show can easily be forged by linking three disparate stories under a common theme and telling them with gusto, even if the stories are told purely via narration.

Provided of course they’re engaging stories. And this ‘trip’ is one way. Straight down.

That’s not to criticize actor Colin Mercer, who’s working his heart out across a range of roles over the three acts – all loosely connected by various deals with the devil, though this element could have been removed from the latter two with little impact on the plot. Each has been written by a different author, and the first, by Mercer, aims the lowest of the three, combining the legend of Faust with his own penchant for dropping names. In short, the devil will grant you a brilliant music career on the proviso you join the ’27 club’. A simple concept. Perhaps too simple and silly to really win any love for our hero, Eris. At best, it’s a fun, rather shallow introduction to a show that will find its heart later on... surely?

Not so, say the Fringe gods! Our next story is a sci-fi dystopian epic entitled B.Q and credit where it’s due, this is where Mercer’s ability to play a one man band of characters and absurdities really shines. But as sure as it shows off Mercer’s versatile talents, it reveals the problem with this – also overlong – second act. It’s so needlessly complicated, particularly when wedged between the relatively clean narratives of its companion pieces. Hell, it would probably make a respectable Fringe show in its own right, but condensed into a one-man rant, it feels raggedy and we frequently find ourselves lost.

Then there’s A Very Long Obituary, an adaptation by Leah Jane Esau. This is trip’s one attempt at going for the heart, though by this point, any goodwill has been long spent. It doesn’t help that it’s the slowest, most static of the pieces. It features a genuinely clever wrap-around that is open to interpretation – and even throws back to Mercer’s Eris piece. But it also takes its sweet time getting there, lurching from idea to idea within its own (comparatively simple) narrative in a way that’s jarring. Like B.Q, it too often loses us.

A stronger link between the three narratives would probably help trip find its feet on stage, but even then, as they stand, the stories just aren’t interesting enough to hold their own – except for B.Q, which packs more ‘interesting’ than this format can handle.

Duration: 60mins

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