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Monday, 4 July 2016

O Happy Chainsaw! A Timeless Love Story... with a Bloody Twist

'Til death do them part.
Brittany Kay, Nicholas Porteous, and the Chainsaw Wielding Maniac
star in Bain & Bernard Comedy's
Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre

Photo credit: Bain & Bernard Comedy.

Photographer: David Kingsmill.

On July 3rd, after participating in a wondrous Pride celebration (I will post a blog about it soon), I took in a show running as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Fringe, in Toronto, is a 10 day long arts festival showcasing local theatre productions from local artists. The shows occur all around Mirvish Village in Toronto, and are put together by some real talented people. The show I went to see was, Romeo & Juliet Chainsaw Massacre, written and directed by, Matt Bernard and produced by, Rebecca Perry.

As the title suggests, this is a new... and gory... take on the timeless Shakespearean tale. This retelling goes through the motions it does in the original tale, with the added component of a homicidal Chainsaw Wielding Maniac. The Chainsaw Wielding Maniac has escaped from the Asylum for Deranged Antics, and has left behind a trail of mangled bodies; a trail heading toward fair Verona, the settling of the 1 hour traffic of our stage.

The show begins with the Chorus, setting the tone of the proceedings. The tone is quickly set as thus: you’re in for one hilarious ride. During the prologue, the audience is introduced to the Chainsaw Wielding Maniac, whose presence our dear Chorus feels, but never manages to actually see. Had I not have been laughing, and were it not theatre, I probably would have yelled out, “Behind you!” Don’t worry, I didn’t actually yell it out.

The rest of the show is, essentially, a compressed telling of the Shakespeare classic, hitting all of the major plot points of the play. The introduction of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, Juliet’s betrothal to Paris, the star-crossed lovers meeting and falling in love, their marriage, Romeo’s banishment, and of course, the untimely deaths of our endearing lovers. All this, with the Chainsaw Wielding Maniac throwing chaos into the mix, and stirring things up a bit. Or should I say, hacking things up a bit. Oh, and let’s not forget about Peter, the Illiterate Servant to give a few extra laughs.

The show also remains true to the horror story tropes. The victim who remains oblivious to what is going on until it’s too late. The victim who fights back and lives to die another day. The character who is wrongfully accused simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Oh, and the ever present body count - higher than even Shakespeare himself could have dreamt up. To be truthful, I think Matt Bernard and Rebecca Perry received a few pointers from George R.R. Martin on that subject.

The cast was superb, expertly walking the line between parody and ridiculously silly. In acting, one of the most crucial things is, timing - regardless of the genre. The beats between dialogue and reactions have to be just right. Take too long, and the moment falls flat. Too quick, and the moment goes right over the audience’s head. You don’t want that. There is a rhythm to it, and that rhythm has to be perfect. And it was. None of the jokes fell flat, the reactions were spot on, and only the appropriate moments were milked.

While on the topic of the cast, I want to highlight each and every one of them. Nicholas Porteous portrayed the lovestruck Romeo, keeping true to the Shakespearean tale while adding the right amount of comedic flair. Brittany Kay was in the role of young, beautiful Juliet, emphasising Juliet’s longing to be free from the path her parents have set out for her. Her death scene was my favourite of the show. Scott Garland played two roles in this show - Sampson and County Paris. He really shone as Paris, playing the character as someone Juliet would never fall for, but her parents would adore. Benvolio was played by Victor Pokinko, who I previously saw in Out of Lens, written by David Kingsmill. Ah, Benvolio, what fun it seemed Pokinko had in this role, the loyal friend to the Montagues, but probably the only one who really didn’t want to see any real feuding… At least, after he found out about the Chainsaw Wielding Maniac. Rylan O’Reilly was in the role of the ever ready to duel Tybalt. There was something wonderful about seeing a character who, despite the rules against brawling Prince Escalus had placed upon Verona, still wanted to go at it. It was actually a bit refreshing, if not a great source of entertainment. Everyone’s favourite sidekick, Mercutio, was delightfully played by Michael Iliadis. The passion and lightness of the character was ever present; not once did he really seem to care there was a maniac on the loose… Until he had to deal with said maniac personally. One of my favourite roles had to be that of the Nurse, portrayed by Sarite Harris. The Nurse is one of my favourite characters from the classic R&J because she is such a large personality, and goodness gracious mercy me did Harris ever play her with that personality. The Nurse, really, was one of the strongest characters in the show, something that is ever so refreshing to see. She was tenacious, bawdy, and not one to back down from a fight. The roles of Gregory and Capulet were played by Scott Emerson Moyle, and played them with the right amount of comedy. This brings me to Lady Capulet, portrayed by Rebecca Perry (the same Rebecca Perry who produced the show). As in all of her productions, she brought the character to life with just the right mixture of sophistication and comedy worthy of a Capulet caught up in a whirlwind of a situation like the one she found herself in. Warren Bain was wonderful as both Friar Lawrence and Abram. As one of the heroes in the tale (he tries to make sure Romeo and Juliet’s plan to run away succeeds after all!), it is refreshing to see Friar Lawrence played with comedic flair. One of my favourite roles was played by Jeremy Lapalme - Peter, the Illiterate Servant. How lovely it is when one’s misfortunes are the delights of those who watch on. The fine line between knowing how important one’s job is and knowing one cannot fulfil that job was beautifully walked by Lapalme. Such a delight. The roles of the Chorus, and of Prince Escalus were played by David Kingsmill, roles utterly different yet portrayed with the same amount of enthusiasm. And last, but certainly, NOT least, the Chainsaw Wielding Maniac! He was the highlight of the entire production. But I failed to get his name. The entirety of the cast played their parts with respect, while also allowing themselves to have all the fun they needed, and wanted, to have. It was a brilliant job well done all ‘round.

The costumes were simple, but set the period for the piece (though I had know idea chainsaws existed back in those days… You learn something new every day!), and cleverly allowed for the aftermath of deaths to be showcased. Though, one of my favourite deaths occurred off stage.

If you haven’t seen Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre, get your tickets now. And when I say, now, I mean, NOW. The show I attended was sold out and also had a waiting list. I have no doubt at all that the next shows in it’s Toronto Fringe run will sell out and sell out fast!

The next shows for the run are:
Tuesday, July 5th at 3:15pm
Thursday, July 7th at 9:15pm
Friday, July 8th at 2:15pm
Saturday, July 9th at 11:30pm
Sunday, July 10th at 5:15pm

It is playing at the Randolph Theatre at 736 Bathurst Street in Toronto. Tickets are $12.00 and you can opt to add a donation to Fringe when you purchase your ticket.

To purchase tickets visit: