Circus (A Moment by Moment Production) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

Frank (Alex Kazam), a circus character in white face paint and a sombre grey suit, is pre-set and the fourth wall of the stage is lined with mason jars, filled with assorted knick-knacks, when the lights come up on Circus. John (Dylan Mawson) has been holed up at home in his bathrobe for the last two months subsequent to the death of his fiancée Lila (Gillian Fournier).  He is deaf and blind to the concerned protestations of his best friend Kayla (Cassandra Van Wyck).

Circus, written and directed by Nathan Tanner Mac Donald, is a surrealist exploration of coming to terms with death and dying. Clowns Poe and Doe (Geoffrey Heaney and Alex Best), Lila returned as Gaia and Frank accompany John on his journey from despair to acceptance.

Perhaps 10:30pm was just too late for my poor tired brain to unpack philosophical symbolism with clowns. I got the general themes but was a bit confused about what exactly the clowns, face paint, marco polo games and fluffy costumes were trying to tell me. I should confess that I have a fairly tenuous relationship with surrealism in general and live, straight theatre is probably my least favourite medium for it.

Circus set itself a fairly challenging task in trying to say anything particularly pithy about a topic as thoroughly canvassed as mortality in an hour. The writing was solid; the acting demonstrated real talent and the costumes looked fabulous. It had all the building blocks of great theatre and yet somehow I just couldn’t see my way to caring about John’s woe and inner conflict.

I think the broad themes explored would have had to hone in on ideas a lot more specific and clear to grab and hold my interest. The concept has potential but needs more development to achieve its goals.

– Circus plays at Factory Theatre Mainspace, venue 12

– Playing:

Wed, July 6 10:30 PM 1203
Fri, July 8 5:15 PM 1209
Sun, July 10 3:00 PM 1221
Tue, July 12 8:45 PM 1236
Thu, July 14 4:00 PM 1247
Fri, July 15 7:30 PM 1256
Sun, July 17 Noon 1266

– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets areavailable online at, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The RandolphCentre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)

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