Review: High Life (Soulpepper)

Toronto’s Soulpepper delivers a gripping heist story in a High Life

I watched Soulpepper‘s High Life on opening night in the Distillery a couple of nights ago. Needless to say, I was very excited to see this show as Soulpepper’s reputation for excellence definitely adds special anticipation to their shows.

The show started off with an announcement asking the audience to turn off their f**king cell phones which made everyone laugh and cheer. This pretty much set the tone for the show. The show is filled with profanity, drinking, smoking and even needle-injecting onstage, all while keeping it humourous and never getting too dark, which considering the subject matter is no small feat in itself.

The set is simple; a sparsely furnished living room that could belong to any uncaring bachelor. The props are generally booze, drugs and cigarettes. And the costumes make you feel like these men just walked out of a trailer park or jail cell, which they did.

The one thing that makes this show so great is how real it feels. Every moment of this production is believable; it never feels put on or forced and the actors interact so naturally with each other that it’s easy to get sucked in and lost in their world. I don’t see many shows that can do that this well.

The characters are relatable, well as much as one can relate to a murderer, but the best part of the story is getting a glimpse into an addict’s world. A world where crime is a way of life and people do anything for their next high.

The characters are also very well developed and have facets to their personalities. The plot centres around three drug-addicted ex-cons who come up with the “perfect” plan for a heist that will set them up for the rest of their lives. They convince a fourth handsome junkie to join their team and act as the face of the operation.

The easy and witty banter between Dick, played by Diego Matamoros, and Bug, played by Michael Hanrahan, is hilarious. This is such a tight and well-written script that every line delivers a punch. The chemistry and timing between these two actors is brilliant.  They seem like they have been life-long friends who just sit around, get drunk and make fun of each other.

The other two actors Oliver Dennis and Mike Ross do a fantastic job as well. Each person is perfectly cast in their role but for me Hanrahan and Matamoros stole the show.

This show could easily have been boring. Watching four men sitting around getting high and planning a crime doesn’t necessarily spell riveting in my books, but believe me this show is. It was a full house on opening night that ended with a standing ovation. If I could I would like to see this show again. Mainly for the smart dialogue and the phenomenal acting, but what more could you possibly want from a show?

Get your tickets early as I’m guessing this is going to another one of those sold-out Soulpepper runs. On the way out all I could hear through the audience was how amazing they thought it was.


High Life is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill St) till March 28, 2012
– Shows dates and times vary so please check out the calendar
– Tickets range from $32 to $68
– Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 416-866-8666

Photo of cast: Mike Ross, Michael Hanrahan, Oliver Dennis & Diego Matamoros by Michael Cooper Photographic.