For Canadians of a certain age who remember the constitutional debates of the 1990s, the idea that separatism could inspire a interactive sketch comedy might seem counterintuitive. Let’s Start A Country!, a show in the Toronto Fringe Festival currently playing at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace, does just that and succeeds, thanks to the originality of its premise and the skill of its actors.
Let’s Start A Country!, currently entering its third year of performances, is not so much a play as it is a group seminar. Gerard Harris leads the audience in brainstorming a micronation into existence. Supported by colleague Al Lafrance, Harris then draws upon audience participation to come up with with a basic description of the territory, its flag, and its customs. The audience is promised in the handout that descriptions of the countries created during the show’s run will be available via the official website.
The rest of the hour-long engagement sees Harris and Lafrance take the young nation through its tumultuous first hour, including a confrontation with the Canadian government in the form of Holly Gauthier-Frankel. Tonight’s nation was “Popcornscotia”, united by the worship of the god Zahoomph.
This was an hour of great fun. The idea of the micronation, noteworthy not as a serious attempt at separatism but rather as a statement of some sort of identity at the level of a city, a neighbourhood, or even a home, has always held some interest to me. It was great to attend Let’s Start A Country! and get a live comedic treatment of the micronation idea, and even better to be able to actively participate in the process. Meech Lake and the 1995 Québec referendum had nothing on this in terms of sheer fun.
Harris and Lafrance did an excellent job as a duo, guiding the audience through the plot they are co-creating and keeping things on track. Harris led the discussion ably with his very energetic style, nimbly pacing about the stage as he kept the audience engaged and laughing. Lafrance was an effective straight man, flipping between seemingly keeping the discussion anchored in reality and portraying characters like television journalist Manley Peterbridge, scarf-wearing flag designer Don Drapeau, and others. These leads, and other supporting actors, made Let’s Start A Country! a success.
Let’s Start A Country! is a fun hour of interactive play, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before at the Fringe. You don’t have to have had a deep-seated interest in participating in the comedic roleplaying to enjoy it, either. You only need an appreciation for the past to enjoy the zaniness.
- Let’s Start A Country! is playing until July 12 at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. (30 Bridgman Ave.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor St. West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Remaining show times
July 04 at 11:00 PM
July 06 at 05:45 PM
July 08 at 06:15 PM
July 10 at 12:00 PM
July 11 at 06:15 PM
July 12 at 04:00 PM
Photo of Gerard Harris and Al Lafrance by Louis Longpré.