FRINGE TORONTO: Red Machine-Part One, Review by Evan Webber

Red Machine

Written by Brendan Gall, Michael Rubenfeld, and Erin Shields
Directed by Chris Hanratty, Geoffrey Pounsett, and Christopher Stanton
Presented by The Room

Featuring James Cade, John Gilbert, Paula Jean-Prudat, and Tova Smith

Presented at the Lower Ossington Theatre, 100 Ossington Avenue


Sunday July 12th 7:00pm

Notes of brave intentionality rescue this uneven, first performance by hydra-headed theatre company, The Room. The work’s collaborative origins are pushed to the foreground as the monumentally clichéd story of the-writer-alone-in-his-room gets dynamited as if by flaming-haired, cartoon miners. It's pretty slick, but the slickness sometimes masks a lack of substance, and the mashed-up, David Lynch-y text struggles against the strengths of the performers.

I saw this work with a group of friends who all hated it, and while I often sighed in sympathy with them, I was heartened by the moments of honesty in this attempt. At heart this is a simple story about art and the questions one has creating art, told in a way that's both internally resonant and humourously self-effacing. In itself this is nothing new, but the way that the company’s unmistakable commitment to this story gets blocked and obfuscated by the pressures of the cliché itself certainly says something pointed about the way our brains make sense of the things we see. And the plays succeeds in reanimating a conventional style by playing the drama of the story's own limitations.

Red Machine would benefit from a period of serious reflection and sharpening, but it’s good to see The Fringe used not just as a factory farm for stand-up and musicals; it may also be a place to experiment and it’s exciting to watch early ideas take shape. Hopefully, Part One refers to an incomplete process. Red Machine (and the people who watch it) will be rewarded when the creators apply the energy of their craftsmanship to the clarity of conception. Here’s hoping.

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