Urge For Going (Quality Slippers Productions) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

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Urge For Going has actors, puppets, musicians, projections and animation. That’s a lot going on in this Fringe show from Quality Slippers Productions, probably too much. Most of these elements are quite good by themselves but they don’t meld seamlessly together. Often they seemed to be there solely to distract me from the weaknesses of the script.

The story is of a fourteen year old girl named Carrie who lives in small town Saskatchewan. It is 2013, just as it is now, and her grandmother gives her a Joni Mitchell cassette tape. She somehow manages to find a way to play a cassette and falls in love with Joni and with 1960’s hippie idealism in general. She plans to run away to Toronto to become a folk singer.

Her best friend is a talking fox named Henry, who is probably imaginary. He is played by a puppet made out of patchwork material that is both droll and grotesque at the same time. The French accent of the actor playing him adds to this, and the overall effect is quite charming.

Carrie herself is alternately played by an actor (who I think must be bekky O’Neil, the playwright and co-director) and by a puppet the actor manipulates. This same technique is used for her mother and for the character of Paul (more on him later). A projection screen show scenes such as Carrie being visited by the spirit of Joni Mitchell. Off in the dark corner of stage left there are two musicians who play lovely versions of Joni Mitchell’s haunting songs and occasionally provide extra voices to the narrative.

Things start to fall apart when Carrie and Henry wake up in a field and meet a boy named Paul who then takes them on a boat to Toronto and becomes Carrie’s boyfriend. At first I thought things were getting very surreal and welcomed that. After all, puppets and projections set a good groundwork for surrealism. But once they arrived in the city the story went down a road of clichés: Paul and his friends all think she’s too naïve, he leaves her, she records a popular record and music execs want to give her a makeover, turn her into a pop commodity.

Given that the narrative became so normative, I was then very confused about how old Carrie was supposed to be. Was she still fourteen (in which case Paul is very creepy)? Or is she, as she says in a bar where she’s playing, eighteen? Is she just saying that so she isn’t kicked out of the bar? If she is eighteen what happened to the last four years? Why does she never seem to learn any lessons or grow up at all?

These questions are ultimately laid to rest, but it was in a way I found quite unsatisfying as it relied on the biggest cliché in the wide world of plot devices.

There were a lot of good things in the show. When puppet-Carrie is working on an easel (Joni Mitchell is also a painter) an animation shows swirling art of a girl and her fox. The music is wonderful. The puppets themselves are very craftily made (though there was sometimes way too much business: at one point they tried to use a miniature cut out of every single object mentioned in Big Yellow Taxi while still also making the puppets dance). Unfortunately the good aspects are stymied by the overly earnest and unoriginal script.

Details

July 04 06:30 PM
July 06 01:45 PM
July 08 04:30 PM
July 10 09:15 PM
July 11 04:00 PM
July 12 05:15 PM
July 14 01:45 PM

Tickets:

  • Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
  • Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
  • Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 show

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