Fringe Festival Review: Blown Sideways Through Life

Blown Sideways Through Life underwhelmed me, perhaps because I was expecting great, great things, what with all the critical hoopla surrounding it. I walked a way with the sense that all the thick praise, while not unwarranted, had been doled out blindly and far too eagerly.

The play is an apologetically bold and brazen look at life through the eyes of a woman that has seemingly been through it all. Clocking in at 64 jobs, 30-odd years and one too many times of being kicked to the gutter, playwright Claudia Shear picked up the shattered pieces of her life, dusted them off, and then used them as the basis of Blown Sideways.

This one-woman show features Kira Lynn in its Toronto Fringe incarnation. It's a tough role to tackle and Lynn fares well, but she seems to only have two modes of expression: angry outta-my-two super bitch or down-and-out-feel-for-me damsel in distress. A greater array of emotions would have added more depth to the character and to the production. Then again, fault also rests with Shear's script, which fails to explain while the lead character is just all agro, all the time. Sure, we understand that she feels like an outsider "jerked out of stratum" but it is never really revealed why that is. Instead, the audience is left frustrated with a more-than-two-but-less-than-three dimensional character that we desperately want to know better, but cannot. This unexplained rage, in turn, makes the umpteenth utterances of "fuck you" and "bitch" tired and grating.

Lynn's lack of range also detracts from her impressions of the many characters in her life--at times, her expressions don't vary enough to distinguish who she is supposed to be and, as such, the colourful folks that populate her history end up melding into one indistinguishable Other.

The stories, with their hazy beginnings and equally wooly ends, take after the protagonist's relationship with the world. The societal nomad wanders in and out of the lives of those she encounters in the same way her accounts amble in and out of various stories.

Though the anecdotes in Blown Sideways are funny enough, mining more nuggets of insight about humanity would have taken this play to the next level. That potential, however, remained untapped. In the end, what is left is an entertaining production that really reveals nothing new about our world; in short, mediocre.

Rating: **1/2

Venue 5 - Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst, at Adelaide)

Remaining showtimes:
Friday, July 14, 7:15pm
Sunday, July 16, 4:30pm

The Toronto Fringe Festival features local, national and international companies at 28 venues. Tickets are $10 or less ($2 surcharge on advance tickets) and discount passes are available. Advance tickets sold up to three hours prior to showtime by phone, online or in person at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick, at Bloor). At least half of all tickets for each performance go on sale one hour before showtime at the venue. Festival runs until July 16. Fringe Hotline: 416-966-1062.

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