Reviews - Fringe 2019

Bungalow

By Brian Morton
Published July 25, 2019


First off, I must confess that I am a huge fan of the plays of Sky Gilbert. I saw my first one, "the Whore's Revenge" at the Tarragon Extra Space back in 1989, and have admired his writing ever since. Also, Sky is a rather prolific writer, which means in any theatre season he has produced at least one brand new play and often more.

I like the fact that his plays are fearless and that he is not afraid of controversy. I also like that in the past decade or so, he has written a whole series of Hamilton-specific plays, which were written to be performed only here in this city. Often the scripts are based upon people he has met or issues that face the community. Over the years, I have tried to make an effort to see all of them.

Such is the case with Gilbert's latest play, "Bungalow", which is being performed at Artword Artbar.

The main issue that it deals with is gentrification. About how the social fabric of the city is being transformed by the sudden influx of Torontonians, with large sums of cash in hand, who are buying up properties and raising the rents, often making it difficult for people who have lived in the community all of their lives to survive in this new reality.

The play features two characters, a recently arrived coffee shop owner "Kiefer", played by Tim Walker, and his next door neighbour, who is addicted and unemployed, "Lloyd", played by Shaun McComb. They share a common yard and they collide one evening in a cloud of suspicion and hostility. "Not very neighbourly are you", Lloyd observes.

One man is uptight and stressed out and easily offended, while the other is drunk, stoned, and more open about his sexual behaviour than is typical for strangers who have just met.

Much of the humour and impact of this play comes from the collision of ideas and points of view. It also demonstrates that happiness in life comes from knowing who you are and accepting it, not by the yardstick of how wealthy that you are.

Unusually for a production in the Fringe, this is a fully professional production with actors who had significant professional theatre credits, so it comes across as a something different than the more typical actors who are in the early stages of their career. This is something carefully constructed and well staged, with a strong opinion and a finished polished script.

If you like theatre that has ideas as well as humour and has something to say, I would encourage you to catch one of the final performances of this play in the last few days of the festival.

Brian Morton is a director and playwright, and was the recipient of the 2013 Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre. In 1988, after two years training in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada, Morton was the founder and first artistic director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street. Three years after that, he was a partner with Guy Sprung in the Evelyn Group, which reopened the historic 750 seat Tivoli Theatre, as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play “How Could You, Mrs Dick?”, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. With Theatre Erebus, he produced the UK premieres of four Canadian plays for the 1990 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s “My Father’s House”, has had five productions, since it debuted in in 1992, at the Dundas Centre for the Arts. Morton’s “New Talent” was the highest grossing show in the 2008 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and in 2010, it toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals. Brian’s original musical, “Under the Apple Tree”, about a shooting that happened backstage, at the Lyric theatre on Mary street in November 1921, debuted in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and was presented at the 300-seat Zoetic Theatre; it got a second run at the Pearl Company, this past November. Brian was also the producer of the 2012 Hamilton Fringe Festival. He is currently a drama critic, and arts journalist for "VIEW Magazine", and has also published articles in the “Hamilton Spectator” and the “McMaster Silhouette”.

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