Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch (Heartichoke Arts) 2017 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Shirley Gnome by Rufio Van Hoover

Boorish, bold… and bushy,  Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch presented by Heartichoke Arts is a show not to be missed. Playing at the 2017 Toronto Fringe, Shirley’s one-women-comedy-country-cabaret explores love, vaginas, farts, political correctness, and everything in between!

The set was simple, yet intriguing. A martini glass, a bedazzled guitar, and a perfectly campy Shirley Gnome gobo. Shirley took to the stage with her first song. Even with her glittery county fair pageant dress, her voice was the first thing to catch my attention. It was like sexy spreadable butter. And it was so well pair with her saucy, witty, sharp lyrics.

The songs were so well crafted. Her lyrics tickled my mind and made me let out my embarrassingly guttural “HA!” At the top of the show she warns the audience that the content would be racy and most of it about sex. I was expecting predictable sex jokes, but her subject matter kept surprising me. It pushed boundaries, it was in your face, and it was funny! You could clearly tell that Shirley was a master of song and lyrics.

Though I laughed a lot, it felt like something was missing. When the songs finished and Shirley began speaking something felt off. Now don’t get me wrong, Shirley seemed absolutely delightful, but the story telling didn’t line up with her songs or the persona her media portrayed. She shared so much of herself in the songs, but her patter in between seemed impersonal and left me confused.

I wasn’t sure if Shirley Gnome was a caricature or a persona or if it was purely a comedy cabaret and that’s how she is everyday. I just wanted to know “Who is Shirley Gnome?” For me, a stronger story arc would have made the show feel more connected.

But despite that, this was a hilariously crude country cabaret. The topic matter was racy, so if you are easily offended, well, go see it anyways, it’s worth it. I am excited to see her career grow and would buy her album in a heartbeat. Go for her voice. Go for her lyrics. Go for the vagina jokes. Just go!


  • Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch plays at the Factory Studio. (125 Bathurst St.)
  • Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
  • Content Warnings: Unsuitable for Minors, Sexual Content, Realistic Violence or Gore, Nudity, Mature Language.
  • This venue is accessible.


  • Wednesday July 5th, 10:30 pm
  • Saturday July 8th, 02:00 pm
  • Monday July 10th, 07:00 pm
  • Wednesday July 12th, 09:30 pm
  • Thursday July 13th, 04:15 pm
  • Friday July 14th, 05:30 pm
  • Sunday July 16th, 02:00 pm

Photo of Shirley Gnome by Rufio Van Hoover