The Templeton Philharmonic deliver Gothic flare to their monthly variety showcase
The Templeton Philharmonic bring a dark and macabre edge to the traditional variety show, mixing music, stand up and sketch comedy for a pleasant, if haunting, evening.
We’re entering the comedy season with Just for Laughs around the corner, and that makes it the perfect time to check out some local humour.
But where to go? Sure there’s plenty of venues and companies providing their own brands of comedy, but you’re going into a specific show with a single experience attached to your ticket, and sometimes you instead want a tasting platter of different mediums and styles.
Enter the variety show, and the Templeton Philharmonic has a strong offering with their monthly showcase, Templeton Manor.
It’s always a bit tough to review shows with ever changing lineups as there’s no guarantee the same performers will be appearing when the next show comes along, but the lineup of a show can give potential audiences a good idea of what’s to come in future dates.
Every Templeton Manor show is kicked off and bookended by Gwynne Philips and Brianna Templeton, acting as spooky Gothic (as in the late 19th century literary style, not stomping boots and eyeliner) hostesses, who provide the audience with the conceit of the evening. Namely, that they’re guests at a spooky old mansion to see the various performers. There’s an amusing, Addams Family-feel to it with the creepy and macabre being appealing as opposed to distressing. The little bits of audience participation (in this case helping name an abandoned child) were unobtrusive but fun.
The first act was a musical comedy bit with Lady Mary & the Marquis von Shyzer, which was a fantastic setup for the evening; incorporating songs about Camping (with both pros and cons being presented) and even literacy as a turn on (although I personally must disagree with Lady Mary, J.K. Rowling is far from a god). The double act was fun and bubbly with the only real frustration being the sound system which wasn’t quite properly balanced. This was an issue throughout the evening but considering the small space and limited technical resources available it was forgivable.
Next up was the stand up of Nour Hadidi who was the weakest part of the show, but considering most of her material was aimed at very timely subject matter (the CNE specifically), I suspect she was trying out new material as opposed to her established work. This was disappointing as she’s a Just for Laughs and Winnipeg Comedy Festival alumnus and has some very good material, but sadly this routine fell a little flat. Nour made the unfortunate choice of doing some audience banter with my date Sam and I, and it’s entirely possible when we revealed we were reviewing the show it may have put more pressure on her than she was expecting.
Following Nour was Montreal’s own Employees of the Year who performed a highly entertaining parody of So You Think You Can Dance, a choice Sam and I both greatly appreciated as we are both big fans of the show. All the little bits they did, from the rehearsal confessionals to the specific dance choices just felt spot on and hilarious. Sadly after such an amazing first half, their followup didn’t quite seem to gel and felt like a separate sketch as opposed to a continuation of the first. With the abrupt ending it had, I suspect it was also a work in progress.
Finally, after handing off the annoying found baby to an unwitting audience member, Gwynne and Brianna performed some sketch comedy to close out the show. Once again it felt like they were testing out new material, as their ‘Oracle of Delphi’ sketch felt polished and solid, some of their other work felt half-finished, especially the sketch about a professor with a “thing” about watching people eat. It felt like it was building up to a climax where the power imbalance of a respected faculty member vs. a TA was going to be addressed, but sadly it ended just before that potential explosion. Both Sam and I felt it could have gone further.
Despite the feeling of a workshopping showcase, Templeton Manor was a very fun evening that left both Sam and I with smiles on our faces and new interest in the showcased performers and for only $10 it’s not a massive investment to see new and exciting talent strut their stuff.
- Templeton Manor is playing at Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor St. W)
- Performances are every last Wednesday of the month.
- Showtimes are at 8 pm.
- Tickets are $10, $5 for Students/Arts Workers.
- Tickets are available at the door.
Photo of Gwynne Philips and Briana Templeton provided by the company.