Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: (Edmonton) They Call Me Mr. Fry

Teacher's Notes
by Rebecca Edgewood

In the program description for They Call Me Mr. Fry, audience members are warned to ‘Bring your Kleenex’ – I assume because they are supposed to be moved to tears by the acting, narrative or by the characterization of the inner-city children taught by Mr. Fry in this 90-minute one-man Fringe show.  

The thing is, I wasn’t moved.  I mean, not a whit. The story could be compelling enough, and Jack Fry does seem to be a fair enough actor, but there are a lot of elements in this show that need work. So instead of listing them as negatives, just as teachers write constructive notes for improvements at the end of essays and papers, I thought I would offer a few helpful hints to Mr. Fry as to how this show could be tightened and made far more professional.  

1- The running time. 90 minutes is simply too long.  2- Bringing ‘originals’ of the students’ notes and other props.  Any professional actor knows that a well-constructed prop needs to stand up over time.  These papers and booklets are falling apart, and their unfortunate state doesn’t lend them authenticity.  Just make a copy.  3- The characters. The playing of the 10-year-old girl is almost farcical, and the voice of the boy is far too deep for a child. Get a director, and work with the characters. Also, the physical whirl in and out of characters isn’t necessary.  Characters can be established with the slightest of physical movements: a raising of the eyebrows or a slight slump to the shoulders.  4- Decide what is the story you are trying to tell. Is it a heartwarming tale of inner-city children? Is it bitterness from being sent to ‘teacher jail?’ There are two stories in this show (which accounts for the uncomfortable length), and the play would be much improved if you stuck to one. 5 – Don’t try too hard. You’re an adept enough actor, if you don’t bludgeon the audience over the head with emotion. Don’t warn them to bring a Kleenex, make them wish they had. There is acting and there is ‘schmackting’, and the overwrought emoting in They Call Me Mr. Fry gets dangerously close to the latter. Subtlety is key if you want the audience to truly feel. 6 - Last, and most importantly, realize that this story has been told before. In books, in movies, in television shows. It is still a worthy story, but as the ‘Young, idealistic teacher put out of his depth in an inner-city classroom’ theme is so well-known to the audience, your play needs to be top-notch to be relevant.  

Overall, there’s much room for improvement, but it’s worth some dramaturgy, a director and some workshopping, and the final result may be A+.  

They Call Me Mr. Fry is at the Edmonton Fringe

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.