Bizarre, dark and twisted.
Those are the qualities audiences can expect from Toronto Fringe Festival’s King of the Castle, presented by House of Rebels Theatre and written and directed by Ross Hammond.
Gordon (Tyler Hagemann) is growing up, and as most of us are forced to do as we grow up, he has to throw aside his childhood fantasies. The only issue is, they don’t want to be thrown away. Gordon must confront the last of the imaginary friends he created while growing up: the young and innocent Edgar (Nick May), the super sexualized fantasy girl Lucy (Olivia Clarke), and the unhinged and erratic Pepper (Jada Rifkin).
King of the Castle is a piece that properly takes risks and goes against the pitfalls of new theatre. Too often plays by emerging artists will be unnecessarily dark, or contain peculiar and unneeded twists in order to create a falsified “shock factor” for the audience, but King of the Castle avoids these clichés and provides an interesting and insightful piece of theatre.
While the overall tone of the play is incredibly dark, the tone fits well with the subject matter – a grown man talking to his childhood imaginary friends who have all become jaded and psychotic – and all of the twists thrown into the plot feel very natural.
All four performers manage to embody fully developed characters with unique traits and quirks, without coming across as archetypal or stock. This really speaks to both the writing capability of Hammond, as well as the acting chops of the performers.
Like most Fringe shows, King of the Castle really holds back as far as props and set design goes. With only two blocks, a chest and a (creepy-looking) chair, the set is almost completely bare, yet it works to the play’s advantage, helping to keep the focus on the performers and the theme of the play. If we as an audience were to imagine what the mind of a schizophrenic trying to eliminate his past imaginary friends would look like, I for one would assume that it would be as barren as the stage portrayed.
With such an empty stage, there is a huge emphasis put on lighting. Before the show begun, Hammond told me that lighting drives a lot of the action and tone of the play, and he was right in saying so. Lighting designer Andrea Nelson pulls off some subtle lighting changes that perfectly balance out the action on stage.
House of Rebels have struck gold with King of the Castle, and I urge anyone to see this twisted piece of theatre while they can.
King of the Castle runs until July 10, as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. For more information, visit www.fringetoronto.com.