The promotional images for News Play looked very intriguing. Most of them basically involved the cast of actors laying on the floor with head casts that say “news” in permanent marker on them, yeah… I was sold.
Upon entering the Annex Theatre I can see that the back wall of the stage is covered in newspaper. There’s a tall stack of papers labeled “this is a chair” and another “this is also a chair”. The idea of making the props and set out of literal newspaper is genius in my opinion and so very “Fringe”. The company really carried off the “visual” aspect of the production well. It was dusty, drab and low-budget, just like you’d expect a newsroom in Peterborough (and a Fringe show) to be.
The cast is generally strong but there are a couple of standouts that had me seeing stars. Rouvan Silogix who plays the quirky Peterborough native “Lyle” and the gruff Greyhound bus driver respectively, is the most boisterous and active of the bunch. He put his whole body into his performance, it sometimes even looked like he was straight up vibrating with energy! I always looked forward to when he came onstage because I knew that whatever he did would be “big” and “bold”. Madeleine Brown (who wrote the show) also caught my attention as the strange, homey pyromaniac cousin “Winnie”. She was meek as a mouse but had the comedy chops of a lion.
The dialogue was…curious. At first I found the jokes to be too heady and strange, but then “I got it”. The style of humour in this show is very “absurd” as was the story. A brother-sister writer duo take up jobs at a local Peterborough newspaper to protect their pyromanic cousin from getting sued by the newspaper owner. Already kind of absurd, and oddly specific. The story ended up making sense in the end, but it took me a while to get into it. There was a lot of explaining of plot points by the characters and if you weren’t paying complete attention to every word they were saying, you’d surely miss something important.
Without giving anything away, I found some of the story and the actions of the characters to be a tad “unbelievable”, like when Joy (Charlin McIsaac) did “something bad” (don’t want to give it away) to her cousin. I just couldn’t believe that her character would do that. By the end, the story made sense in it’s own special brand of “non-sense”, but it DID take some mental acrobatics to get there.
I ended up having a really great time at News Play. It has a unique, oddball sort of voice that definitely makes it stand out from the rest of the shows I’ve seen at the Toronto Fringe Festival so far. It’s unabashedly strange and isn’t afraid to show it!
- News Play plays at the Annex Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: mature language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route which requires a staff escort. Check in at the box office at least 15 minutes prior to showtime.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 6:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 10:30 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 2:45 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 7:30 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 5:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 3:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 12:45 pm
Photo of Charlin McIssac and Greg Solomon by Graham Isador