I saw this show on the last day of the Fringe, and there were a handful of people in the audience. The show was well done and deserved a better audience, but there were a lot of reasons it didn't get it.
The play itself is about an alcoholic father who has lost custody of his child and we watch his life slowly unwind. This isn't exactly light summer fare.
The play is well written and competently directed by Tien Providence, and the acting is well done by both Dayjan Lesmond playing Forbes the father and Jennah Foster Catlack playing the daughter, Keenya, and the Judge. However, Lesmond's concentration on his accent seemed at points to get in the way of his acting. Also, given that Lesmond and Catlack are close in age, it was harder to believe that they were father and daughter, especially given that Catlack was playing a fourteen-year old girl.
What sets this play apart is that it's a Caribbean story. And it's the first time I've ever seen a Caribbean play at the Fringe, which is particularly important to me being of Caribbean descent. This is the most important thing to know about this play, so why am I writing about it in the fourth paragraph of my review?
Why am I burying the lead? Quite simple, because this theatre company did just that. The only clue that this play is from the Caribbean or deals with Caribbean issues is the picture of dominos as their Fringe image and perhaps the names of the characters in the description (and that's a big assumption one would have to make). The description of the play states the following: "She watched as He misquotes Shakespeare in a staggering, stuttering ode to love and remembers his drunken behaviour in family court." Although this did happen, this isn't really the reason why you would see this show.
The play itself has been around since 1997, although I had to dig for that fact on the company's website. I'm not sure what the theatre company's connection is to Hamilton (their website states that they "are looking to populate the stages of Toronto Theatres"), but it could undoubtably be strengthened. I certainly am not the only person in Hamilton of Caribbean descent craving to see that content on stage.
In the end, the play seemed rushed to production, with one of the leads not even appearing on the Fringe's website, and no unifying brand for the show.
If there's one lesson that Fringe teaches us it's that producing a piece of theatre isn't just about getting actors to learn their lines and act, getting the script down and getting all the lighting clues - although those things are fundamental - it's also about finding your audience, sometimes one body at a time.
If that seems like too much to ask, consider the alternative, which is having worked quite a bit on the technical aspects of the show, only to have a handful of people in the audience for closing. No doubt the actors and other theatre creators were a little dismayed. I've been there; I've felt it.
There's always next year...but there's always a next year. I hope that Things Fall Apart theatre manages to connect to its audience so that at some point next year becomes this year.
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