Balls – Ten Foot Pole Productions “Show Us Yours” series

By Henry Smith

Rob Salerno and Garett Watson in Balls

Balls – a comedy about testicular cancer – was the second performance of the “Show Us Yours” series that Kathy and I attended.  (See Kathy’s review of Giant Invisible Robot here.)

A big fan of inappropriate humour, and terrible puns, I found myself laughing wholeheartedly through the entire performance.  That is, until the final scene, which held the silent audience rapt, reminding us of the seriousness of the topic.

Rob Salerno and Garett Watson showed a strong rapport, convincingly portraying two lifelong friends enduring the fear and confusion of facing mortality in their early 20s. As Paul Tulio and Bastian Faerber respectively they showed an ease between them that is only present in such long-term friendships.

However, while the scenes jumped from their childhood to university-age fairly frequently, the actors did not show us a change in age or mentality in their performance from one time period to the next.  The childhood versions of Paul and Bastian were exactly the same as their older roles.

However, my only complaints about the show were the inconsistency with age, and what felt like poorly timed and designed lighting.  This play managed to bring notice to a serious ailment, while still being entertaining and lighthearted throughout.

Kathy wasn’t quite as charitable with the show.  She found it decidedly more amateurish than I did, though she felt that was mainly in the performances and the technical aspects than problems with the actual script.  Although, since she is in the theatre industry, perhaps the higher expectations are to be expected.

She felt the set design was functional, if a little more complicated than it needed to be.  She also said that “it was really hard to watch two people with incredibly bad haircuts for an hour”.  (ed. note:  I suspect that the fact Kathy noticed the hair so much is an indication that the piece did not engage her, since really, bad hair isn’t generally presented as a theatre issue – plus, one person’s bad hair is another person’s terribly hip hair.  Just something I’m learning as I get older. – megan) 

But I feel like most of the problems could have been solved with a strong director with a firm hand, and a good ear for pacing.  Kathy also felt that with the right person in charge, the piece could have made huge steps forward.

During this performance, I found myself reminiscing of old friendships, remembering cancer scares in my circle, admiring the smutty prop magazines, and suddenly feeling charitable.  A play that can do that is a play well worth watching.

-The “Show Us Yours” Series runs from May 5-17, featuring Balls (May 5-17), Giant Invisible Robot (May 5-10), and The Sputniks (May 12-17) at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Ave.)
-Tickets are $19 for any one show, $29 for Balls and either of the other shows, or $38 for a pass to all three shows.
-Tickets are available at the door, by phone (416 915 6747), online or at TOTix in Yonge-Dundas Square.  hipTIX have been made available to all shows through TOTix.


Photo of Rob Salerno and Garett Watson by Jenna Wakani

0 thoughts on “Balls – Ten Foot Pole Productions “Show Us Yours” series”

  1. I am slightly more than annoyed with this review. It’s not that I don’t think these reviewers in question don’t have their right to their own opinions. Having seen the show several times, I can agree with some of the things that were mentioned as pro’s and con’s.

    My biggest issue is references to Kathy’s comments, such as “She also said that “it was really hard to watch two people with incredibly bad haircuts for an hour”.” This is absolutely unnecessary in a review and should not have been included, regardless of the ed. note added after the comment. It has no relevance to the piece itself, and merely reflects her disagreement with the actors’ choice of style. And really, who’s review is this, anyway? Unless it’s co-written, I really only feel the need to hear the WRITER’s opinion, and not those of the people sitting around them during the performance.

    I say, if you’re not part of the theatre industry, you can still give valuable reviews on theatrical pieces. But please, keep it honest, relevant, and your own, otherwise these reviews are biased and useless for potential audiences.

  2. @Anon:

    I’m sorry that the review annoyed you. I can understand your taking issue with the hair comment, and to be honest, I struggled about whether or not to leave that comment in, I guess I made the wrong decision on that one.

    As for the ‘who’s review is this anyway’ comment though, I should clarify that one of the things I ask my writers to do is bring someone along, not necessarily someone they know, and certainly not necessarily anyone with any theatre experience, and then interview them after the show.

    Each ‘show-partner’ is asked the same set of questions, and the writer incorporates the answers as they see fit.

    The idea of the reviews here is to have at least two people’s opinions – they may share the same opinion, but they come from at least two people.

    It’s based on the idea that what one person loves, another may hate, and vice versa. All that we can do as writers is tell people what we though, how it felt to us, and provide as much of a picture of what type of show it is as possible. We do this in hopes that even if we don’t like the show, it may be clear to someone reading the write-up that they would like it.

    My clearest example of this type of thing is a Fringe show I saw a few years ago that I really really really did not like, but the person behind me, well, I thought he was going to pee himself he was laughing so hard. What I pretty much hated was possibly the best thing someone else had ever seen.

    It’s all a matter of taste.

    Some of the writers on here are theatre scholars, others are not. Some of us have been steeped in theatre all our lives, others have not. The truth is though, none of us are any better qualified than the other, because all we’re talking about are our impressions, the things we noticed, the things that we liked, the things we didn’t. I guess, as trashy as it sounds, this is the theatre version of ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like’

    And, with all that, the other side of it is that not everyone will like this kind of writing. Not everyone will enjoy reading what an everyday run-of-the-mill person thinks, and would like a more trained critical eye. That is absolutely perfectly valid, I like reading those reviews too, but there are lots of those people out there.

    What I’m interested in *is* what the opinon of “the people sitting around (the writer) during the performance.” One person’s opinion is just that, I would like to hear as many opinions as possible. And, since I started this site, I get to say what kind of stuff goes on it. *grin*

    I appreciate you taking the time to write the comment, it’s always good to get feedback, and it’s also important to remind me that sometimes I need to make it clear what type of writing is on the site.


  3. Okay, thinking more on this. Specifically about the idea that the comment about the hair was not relevant. I would argue that it was. I mean, it was said harshly, and I should have gone with my gut and gone back to the authour to rework the wording, but really, how is it not relevant that what someone took away from a show was the hair, or costume, or set, or little speck of fluff on someone’s shirt not relevant. If that’s what she noticed, then it was relevant for her. It will likely be relevant for someone else.

    Sorry, apparently this is swirling aroun in my head some more. I think I’m done, but you never know. *grin*

  4. The haircut was actually relevant for a few reasons. Firstly, because one of the actor’s haircut resulted in his hair being in his eyes for the show, which is really distracting for an audience member. Second, it was symptomatic of bigger issues in the show. If I was only as engaged as to be so distracted by something as mundane as their haircuts, then there were some pretty big problems with the show. This is how I intended the comment to be taken, though I admit it was a little obtuse, and perhaps impolite, the way it was phrased. But it’s theatre. If you’re going to be brave enough to put something out there for an audience, you have to be brave enough accept that the audience is going to see it through their eyes, not your own.

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