Tom's a-cold at Next Stage Theatre Festival

Tom's a-cold at the Next Stage Theatre Festival

The Next Stage Theatre Festival is underway, with eight plays running until January 16. It's a more refined extension of the Toronto Fringe Festival. I caught the opening night of Tom's a-cold on Thursday at the Factory Theatre Mainspace.

Tom's a-cold is about two Englishmen lost in a ship in the Arctic. Quite the Canadian experience. The story is told by two formidable actors, who have both spent at least a couple of years at the Stratford Festival.

Matthew McFadzean, who also plays Agent Burt Wilson in the new CBC comedy InSecurity, plays Thomas Dowling (or Tom) to Shane Carty's George Holworthy character.

Tom's a-cold is a new play by David Eagan, whose inspiration comes from his experiences on a road trip with some friends through the Yukon, up to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. This play won the 2009 Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition.

The play is historically derived from 1845, HMS Terror and Erebus set sail from England in search of the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. Neither ship was ever seen again....

The interplay between the two left in the small boat is quite enjoyable to watch, as they transition from shipmates to friends to potential sources of food for each other. That's right! Cannibalism is alive and well in the seas of the Arctic.

Tom's a-cold is directed by Daryl Cloran and Ashlie Corcoran. The set (designed by Joanna Yu) is rather sparse: Just a large rowboat and a handful of props. Yet the dialogue is compelling enough to keep the audience keen throughout the 65 minute show. And subtle shifts in lighting (by Jason Hand) kept the mood just right.

There are moments when I'm laughing out loud and other times when I truly feel for their predicament. Sometimes both at the same time. Imagine being stuck in a boat up in the Arctic with nobody to keep you company except a smelly, argumentative man? I'd surely go bonkers.

One of my only qualms with the show is that, due to it being cut shorter from 90 minutes (making me wonder what 25 minutes they cut) the ending appeared rather abrupt.

Tom's a-cold runs until January 16 at the Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. (at Adelaide). For tickets ($12 - $15) call 416-966-1062 or visit The Fringe Online Box Office.

Photo courtesy Next Stage Theatre Festival.

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