Review: Trout Stanley (Factory Theatre)

Photo of Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Shakura Dickson, Natasha Mumba in Trout Stanley

Trout Stanley hits all the right notes with its impeccable direction and dynamic acting

Do you ever watch a show and think to yourself: ‘this feels like exactly what I have been missing.’ Claudia Dey’s Trout Stanley, playing at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of their 50th season, is that play for me.

I sat in my seat and thought: weird, funny, rhythmic – this is exactly the type of play I feel like I never get to see.

A perfect mixture of tragedy and comedy, Trout Stanley follows two sisters, the confident Grace Ducharme (Natasha Mumba) and shy, whimsical Sugar (Shakura Dickson).

Beset by personal tragedies at a young age, their 30th birthday should be a celebration of life. Unfortunately, “the local Scrabble champ stripper” is missing, and mysterious stranger Trout Stanley (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff) has appeared at their home.

As I watched, I wondered what the original production was like, when Trout Stanley first premiered at Factory Theatre 14 years ago.

I suspect in someone else’s hands, this show might have worn the early 2000’s a bit too awkwardly. There are some off-colour jokes saved by direction and delivery that I could imagine would land poorly in a different context, and likely did in a different time.

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu’s vision, however, feels modern without losing touch with the era presented. This is the second show I’ve seen from Otu, and I think she is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors.

She sends her actors to extremes, but never too far, and always, always with heart. In fact, I never lost sight of the humanity in the midst of loveable chaos. Grace is confident, but she does care. Sugar is sweet, but she is angry, too.

Trout Stanley is, well, a small fish in an uncaring world.

They’re human.

Otu’s direction is helped by the crackling script and stellar cast.

Honestly, Mumba, Jackman-Torff, and Dickson are hilarious, feeding on each other’s energy, successfully one-upping each other as only great actors can do on.

Each actor shone in their own way.

Mumba’s declarative entrance at the end of the first scene set the stage for the high energy romp to follow. And it’s those little details – like when she checks herself in the mirror in the worst possible time – that really up the ante. This is a character who is great, and Mumba knows it.

She’s followed by Jackman-Torkoff whose quirky Trout could read as a creep in anyone else’s hand. Instead, we get a loveable weirdo with issues, a foot fetish, and incredible guilt over the death of a roast.

And finally, there is Dickson, who eschews the broad physicality of her co-stars and delivers static monologues with nervous energy and barely hidden rage. I loved how she built to crescendos of elaborate situations, like gouging out eyes by barely moving a muscle.

Set against Jackman-Torkoff’s elaborate physicality and Dickson’s tightly strung oddities, I was left guessing what I’d get next. This isn’t your average comedy. The wit is crackling back and forth even as the comedy ball is tossed from hand to hand.

You don’t get this wonderful balance often in theatre. Factory Theatre’s Trout Stanley is a rare chance to see the stars align.

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Photo of Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Shakura Dickson, Natasha Mumba by Joseph Michael Photography

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