If you want an inside look at the zany rehearsal process in the life of a Shakespearean actor, then Shakespeare-mash-up-parody The Peers is a show for you. Toronto Fringe Festival presents The Peers at the Annex Theatre.
The Peers is a show within a show that begins with five actors — Lisa Drupsteen, Rahul Gandhi, Kate Hammer, Adrian Macdonald, and Conor Tomalty — who are seemingly backstage. Their intention is to recreate a multitude of Shakespeare shows.
For an amateur like myself who admittedly understands a few pieces, the premise of digesting multiple Shakespeare plays in an hour’s time seems quite intimidating. Fortunately, the cast does a wonderful job of introducing Shakespeare in common language in a fun, comedic manner.
Each company member portrays an actor in the show, and each actor embodies a theatre stereotype. One actor plays an earnest theatre newbie, one an emotionless actor, two are involved in relationship quarrels, and one is a musical theatre enthusiast. I was nervous at what a ruckus could occur with so many extroverts in one room.
The actors perform in high energy for the entire piece, creating bold, daring choices that keeps audience members on their toes. The usage of extreme physicality, over expression, puppetry, props, and audience interaction are both stimulating and captivating.
The set up of the performance closely resembles a sketch piece. The company utilizes different types of theatre styles as they retell each Shakespearean play. Variant theatre styles include improvisation, musical theatre, and story theatre. For me, a musical theatre enthusiast, I found it particularly entertaining to have musical references like Hamilton integrated into the script.
I am a huge advocate for adults to maintain an element of exploration and play, and play is alive and well with this cast. I especially enjoyed the use of minimal props as a story theatre technique. In one sequence, actors used a blue blanket transformed from water in one tableau, to air in the next, and to a cape in another. The company’s ability to transform each scene within a manner of seconds is impressive.
Perhaps due to the loose style of the piece, however, I found it challenging to follow the sequence of events. I thought it was unclear when one scene ended, and when another one began. Actors purposefully ran in and out of the scene, but I was unsure whether it was for comedic effect or whether a new scene or character was being introduced. I wish that the transition periods in between scenes were more clear and consistent.
The company will keep you entertained and laughing throughout. The Peers is a hilarious piece that is sure to attract all Shakespeare enthusiasts.
- The Peers plays at the Annex Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; sexual content; audience participation; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route which requires a staff escort. Check in at the box office at least 15 minutes prior to showtime.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 9:30 pm
- Friday July 5th, 1:00 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 7:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 4:30 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 6:45 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 10:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 8:15 pm
Photo of Lisa Drupsteen, Rahul Gandhi, Kate Hammer, Adrian Macdonald, and Conor Tomalty provided by the company