Fringe Review: Red Machine: Part One – The Room

By Crystal Wood

With apologies to my editor, it’s taking me way too long to write this review. But Red Machine: Part One has left me, along with its main character, in a bit of a fog. 

Let’s start with this: on one hand, Red Machine: Part One is three plays.  On the other hand, it’s only one-third of a play.  Are you lost yet? Me too.

The piece is the first part of a larger work by new theatre collective The Room.  (I say “new theatre collective,” although the members are a who’s who of the Toronto theatre scene.)  The installment running at the Fringe presents three pieces by writers Brendan Gall, Erin Shields and Michael Rubenfeld, tied together by one man in a hotel room who’s not sure how he got there, played by James Cade. Presumably, we are taken deeper and deeper into Hugo’s (Cade) unconscious memory as the show progresses.

The pieces are entirely different in style, though all are esoteric and challenging. Brendan Gall brings the absurdism that he did so well in Alias Godot. Erin Shields brings the rhythmical prose that she did so well in If We Were Birds. And Michael Rubenfeld brings a haunting mindfuck that he may or may not have done as well in a previous work (sorry Michael, this is my first by you.)

Unfortunately for me, these voices are so distinct that it limits the piece, rather than serves it. Three writers don’t need to sound like one to succeed, but it is this humble reviewer’s opinion that they could probably relate more than they do here; although I appreciate the discount of getting three plays on one ticket.

However, my interest is piqued, and I do plan on checking the second installment of the piece at the Summerworks Festival this August. I’m curious to find whether clarity on Red Machine: Part One will be provided, or if Part Two will be a deeper trip down the rabbit hole.

Mention should be made of Cade’s fabulous performance(s?) of Hugo, as well as Paula Jean Prudat who was mesmerizing in Shield’s segment.

Be sure to check out the photography lining the walls of the Lower Ossington Theatre, as they’re part of the show, as well. (Red Machine: Part Zero)



Directors: Chris Hanratty, Geoffrey Pounsett, Christopher Stanton
Choreographer: Kristy Kennedy
Cast: James Cade, Paula Jean Prudat, Tova Smith, John Gilbert
Audience: Mature Audience
Warning: Language, Nudity
75 min.

Venue 26: Lower Ossington Theatre
Tue, July 7 7:00 PM
Wed, July 8 7:00 PM
Thu, July 9 7:00 PM
Fri, July 10 7:00 PM
Sat, July 11 7:00 PM
Sun, July 12 7:00 PM

 – All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only), or with interac and credit at the advance ticket box office at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick Ave)

Advance tickets are available by phone (416-966-1062) or at, there is a $2 service charge for these

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows