If Racing Demon
doesnt become the smash hit in Toronto that it was at the
Chichester Festival in England perhaps it will be because it may
be better suited to the Shaw or Stratford Festivals here. To say
its a thinking mans play might stop too many people going
to see it, so Ill fall short of that, and yet... Racing
Demon might not play in Toronto as the comedic sweetmeat that
it was in England this summer. Why not? It's solid theatre, no
doubt about it, and it has the qualities of great pathos and understanding.
The acting is first class all the way and the set is as clever
as a Swiss Army knife but, aw heck, it does get a bit
boring to watch at times. Listen by all means... go ahead and listen all you like... youll enjoy that, but as a visually stimulating theatrical piece it has its downsides.
David Hares award winning play brought to the Mirvishs Royal Alexandra theatre for the next four weeks, with director Christopher Morahan at the helm, examines crises facing the established church in todays ever changing world. It deals with the need for evangelism over comfortable platitudes and handles it via a senior priest in an inner city church
facing a career challenge from a young upstart. The young upstart, Reverend Tony Ferris, comes face to face with the reality of his own sin and terminates his relationship with a young woman, preferring instead to fight for spreading the Good Word and he starts by intervening for the rights of a battered wife. The senior priest, Lionel Espy, seems a dead loss at everything but platitudes. He offers mundane prayers for the needy, prefers playing chess to nursing his ailing wife and seems not to notice
his dysfunctional children. Sounds pretty much like fun doesnt it? It is in its own quiet way.
Stopping it being a veritable hoot is the staccato delivery of Dinsdale Landon (Espy) whose machine gun bursts of dialogue take a bit of getting used to. And its easy to close your eyes in scenes such as the one in front of the billboard in act two. Ferris and his ex, Frances Parnell (Caroline Loncq), are having a bit of a how de do and if it werent for a thoughtful
director telling an under-worked extra to walk across the stage with an umbrella and look nervous, well, thered be not much to watch at all. And theatre is, as well as everything else it is, a visual medium. So it loses a few brownie points there, but...
The fun does percolate throughout and The Reverend Donald Streaky Bacon (Peter Bourke) has most of it. In fact, if it werent for the fact that the audience thinks he has all of it, they might take better to other characters laugh lines.
The Bishop dresses down Espy something fierce with an angry tirade, putrid green jello pudding is mentioned, if I recall correctly, and Espy can only conclude that the Bishops objection to his staying on in his church is purely theological. And you know Dinsdale Landons Espy is beautifully calculated when you watch his masterfully still body language. He stands up
to the Bishop with nary a twitch and at the end of it defies him by saying the Bishop chose to fire him because he thought hed go without a fight. Triumphantly it is not the case.
Racing Demon may bring a new audience to the Royal Alex. At the intermission I chatted with the warden of a Toronto church who was visiting the place for the first time in years. Hed brought nine others with him, all coffee-chatter theologians, to see what Hare had wrought for the Anglican Church and..... For Arts Sake.
Disclaimer: Nothing here is "official." Everything is a composite of media releases, information supplied by or procured from the theatres by direct or devious means, or downright personal opinion. If you don't like what you see, blame us, not the fine folks in the theatres of Southwestern Ontario.