After kicking off Toronto Fringe Festival with the raucous We Are The Bomb, the other shows we’ve seen so far have continued to delight and amaze, showcasing the best from both local talent and far flung travelling players.
One man shows are a staple of any fringe festival, and what better to start the experience than with VGL 5’4″ Top (pictured above), Lucas Brooks’ highly personal tale of the perils and pitfalls of online dating and the gay club scene. For many gay men in the audience, Brooks’ dating disasters and sexual misadventures were something we could all relate to, and his right on-target impressions of the various characters he’s encountered in that world were painfully familiar to us all. Bad date stories aside, Brooks’ show had a more serious side as he examines bitchiness, competitiveness and the obsession with labels so prevalent in the gay community before imploring us all to band together for the sake of progression.
Brooks’ luminous presence filled the stage and made it a fun, brisk hour, and the fact that he stripped down to his underwear as he performed made sure your attention was never going to wander. His use of risque sexual humour belies a more earnest call for unity in the LGBT community, making this a refreshingly well-rounded and honest piece of work.
Shaun McCarthy’s one man show Baggage 2 could be seen as a companion piece to VGL 5’4″.
Having already dealt with dating and sex in his previous hit show, simply called (of course) Baggage, McCarthy returned with a show meditating on the terrifying next stage: relationships! Using the motif of an air flight as a metaphor for relationships, McCarthy offered up a relatable, honest and surprisingly pithy show. Anyone that’s ever flailed their way through any number of disastrous pairings will definitely find themselves agreeing with McCarthy’s take on the post-dating game challenges.
Baggage 2 didn’t necessarily push the envelope, which was a bit disappointing given that Baggage won Patron’s Pick in 2009. The hour-long show provided some good chuckles, but erred more on the side of introspection rather than outright hilarity. Perhaps that’s just what comes with a more mature reflection about growing up, moving out of the comedic grab bag of younger dating life, and growing into a relationship. Even so, Baggage 2 was still a well-acted, solid hour of entertainment.
The same unfortunately couldn’t be said for Everything I Need, Devon Hubka’s show about the trials and tribulations of trying to make it as an actress in musical theatre. Hubka’s personality really shines through here, and it’s great to see a show by someone who’s in the middle of their journey: she hasn’t realised her dreams yet, but by God she’s going to keep trying. Though, while you root for her because she obviously possesses talent, the writing here isn’t as good as it should have been. Bad audition stories can be hilarious, but the anecdotes here weren’t all that interesting: similarly, the bad date encounters she retold weren’t too memorable either, suggesting that Hubka perhaps needs to dig deeper next time or else find some material not entirely based on real life experiences.