Open Rescue: The Play presented by 3D Theatre at the Toronto Fringe Festival opens up an important dialogue about the torture of animal testing through a series of three separate interviews. The play is written from real life interviews, also known as Research – Informed Theatre, making each piece super visceral as a script.
It’s difficult to tackle a harsh subject, and in many ways people tend to veer away from the discussion, but it’s one that needs to be had. I felt my stomach turn at certain descriptions of the type of torture helpless animals endure just so we can purchase useless products like hand cream. In many ways I feel like this show could really cause the audience to question their own morals and beliefs: is animal life worth less than human life? But I felt that the way this piece was drawn out caused it to end up falling short.
I’m currently working on a similar style piece – taking actual dialogue and turning it into theatre – much like a documentary. But with it comes action, and what Open Rescue: The Play is missing is exactly that. I heard myself thinking that I was personally feeling bad for the actress who was made to stand, in heels, for 45 minutes without moving, instead of empathizing with the animals the play is actually about.
It’s hard, when you have such real dialogue with interesting imagery, to make a piece active. Yet I feel that the writer/director spent too much time on writing the piece (which was very real and interesting) and not enough on the structure of the piece. It was very much a three-block structure, breaking up each interview three times and bouncing in between stories. With a piece that’s so much about taking action, a play like this needs to have an emphasis on physical theatre and movement direction.
With that said I did really enjoy the performance of Cora Matheson who launched the play off with such natural delivery. When she began talking about partaking as a lab technician on the animals you really sympathized with the pain she had having to force hazardous liquid on the animals skin, but the reality that in the moment the character felt it was for a better cause.
The Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace also doesn’t lend itself to the piece as the theatre really felt empty and it was a struggle for the other actors to connect to the audience.
The show definitely felt like a work in progress. With such heavy themes it needs a bit of a lightening up to avoid bogging the piece down, especially because of the importance of the content. But that’s what I love about Fringe; it provides a space for improvement and work shopping, while still granting the audience the ability to see so many different types of theatre.
- Open Rescue: The Play plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- 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.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- Friday July 7th, 04:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 05:45 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 11:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 09:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 01:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 07:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 03:30 pm
Photo of Cora Matheson by Davis Mirza