Review: The Parliamentarians (Phil Rickaby)

parliamentarians

Politics and scandal collide in The Parliamentarians playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto

In The Parliamentarians (at The Red Sandcastle Theatre), Ruben Holloway has just been elected Prime Minister and has arranged for a special rendez-vous with a favourite callgirl. The penthouse of the Chateau Laurier, a bottle of outstanding wine, an intriguing young woman–and a phone that will not stop ringing. When his chief-of-staff and the Leader of the Opposition join him in the suite, things begin to unravel in classic farce style.

Well. More or less.

The main problem I had with The Parliamentarians is that it sort of runs madly off in all directions: it’s the kind of show where doors slam and ex-lovers turn up and half-naked women run in and out of bedrooms, but it’s also seems to want us to take it, and its political perspective, seriously–in fact, there are a few moments when it turns downright preachy, the raucous farce giving way to something more like a high-school anti-bullying skit.

If this play is meant to have a serious, adult purpose, then the fact that so much of the plot consists of the cast throwing the idiot ball back and forth undermines this project. If this play is meant to be a pleasant confectionery, unwholesome but immensely pleasing, then the tonal inconsistency and the entire second act play against this.

And it’s not the actors’ fault.

Scott Clarkson has a tall order with Prime Minister Ruben Holloway, but his mannerisms alone are a treat: I was put in mind of Pierre Trudeau at the height of his power. Rebecca Rodley seems under-utilized until the intermission, when she comes out of nowhere and really gets to shine. Richard Beaune has his hands full with chief-of-staff Perkins, showing a gift for physical comedy and comic timing. And Adrianna Prosser establishes a fascinating character in record time, before proceeding to essentially deliver the entire second act. (I don’t think it would be unfair to describe it as a monologue, and it’s one she delivers beautifully.)

The one who really stuck me, though, was Siobhan Richardson, doing double-duty as the Leader of the Opposition and the production’s fight coach. (And, therefore, perhaps responsible for much of the excellent movement and physicality which gets laced through this piece.) The play just gets better whenever she’s on-stage, and she does the best job of the crew at navigating the script’s contortions and inversions.

This show has some truly hilarious moments, some great acting, and a few points of genuine insight. The rest of the package has problems, although not with the cast. If you’re into politics, or you enjoy a good farce, you’ll find something to like here.

Details

  • The Parliamentarians runs through June 1st, 2014 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. (922 Queen East)
  • Tickets are $20, and must be paid for, cash-only, at the theatre. They can be reserved by emailing redsandcastletheatre@gmail.com
  • Please be advised that, due to construction-related disruptions on the Queen and King streetcars, transit access to this venue is very spotty at the moment. If you travel by TTC, plan your route carefully, and anticipate significant delays.

Photograph of (L -> R) Scott Clarkson, Richard Beaune and Siobhan Richardson provided by the company.

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