Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Redheaded Stepchild (Fringe)

Beat Up
by joel fishbane

With a crackerjack script and a fireball at its centre, Redheaded Stepchild is the sort of show that feels both familiar and new all at the same time. All the usual tropes of the one-man show are there: multiple characters, a premise torn from the author’s experience, quirky comedy, and true pathos somewhere near the end. But in the hands of writer / performer Johnnie Walker, it all feels surprisingly new. 

Walker plays the titular character, a boy on the verge of adolescence grappling with cyber-bulling, his new stepmother and his own developing sexuality. Oh and he’s a ginger, the result of a broken chromosome which has left him with red hair, pale skin and a tendency to feel pain more sharply than others. It’s this last characteristic that gives Redheaded Stepchild its unique charm; as a redhead, Walker is a member of a visible minority, albeit one that is rarely discussed. Yet Walker’s exploration of what it’s like to be red in a world of blonds and brunettes is surprisingly engaging. 

The story touches on plenty of worthwhile themes but the one that’s universal is the strange and awkward time that is adolescence. We all felt alone and isolated in those years and Walker manages to recreate that loneliness in a way that never becomes maudlin. The show’s also wildly funny and will remind you either why you love Rita Hayworth or why you should. 

Redheaded Stepchild runs in repertoire with another show written by Walker called Amusement. This means there’s limited chances to see this solo effort so get your tickets now.

July 2 - 13

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