Old Fitz Theatre, April 21


You know you’ve entered a parallel theatrical universe when the teddy bear steals the show. Yes, Alice in Slasherland features Edgar, a talking teddy bear, who’s actually a demon from hell. And I now know that in hell’s grand pantheon, Edgar’s one of the good guys. Whoever heard of a really evil teddy bear, anyway?

Qui Nguyen’s 2010 play sends up teen horror movies with such affection as suggests the writer spent years devouring them. Way beyond silly, his humour lurches so far into the crass zone as to return to being funny. Intermittently. For some people. Helping the cause is a bear who’s pretty funny, regardless of what he growls.

Edgar, Justin Amankwah and Bardiya McKinnon. Photos: Robert Catto.

Spoiler alert: Edgar is actually a puppet created by Indi Redding, and superbly controlled and voiced by actor Justin Amankwah. Such a performance makes one wonder why more plays haven’t had bears. Perhaps Winnie the Pooh could have hummed his way through Hamlet (“To bee, or not to bee”), or you could lop a leg off Edgar and have him portray a very short Captain Ahab, who resents whales for their sheer vastness.

The play has several less furry characters and a story, but let’s not get too bogged down. Frequently one wonders whether the intended audience had a mean age of 12. Or less. Then you consider the relentless blue haze billowing around the language (independently of lighting effects), and sadly conclude that those who would enjoy it most would be barred.

Did I mention the blood? Okay, it’s several vats short of the Pop-up Globe’s Macbeth, but avoid the front row in good shoes. The shouting and screaming, meanwhile, is rock-band loud, as is the recorded accompaniment of the fight sequences. Although cleverly choreographed (by Nigel Poulton, in this Rachel Kerry production), these lack humour, so swiftly lapse into tedium. The lines have a higher strike-rate of laughs, like Lucifer’s, “She’s evil, not deaf” and, “That’s some darkness and malice! The kind only a teenage girl can produce.”

The energetic cast is completed by Bardiya McKinnon (Lewis), Stella Ye (Alice), Mia Morrissey (Margaret) and Laura Murphy (Tina), with Jack Angwin and Josh McElroy sharing various roles, and Lauren Peters solving the little stage’s design challenges. Were the show more intelligent it would miss its intended mark, but it could be faster and funnier (with more bear).

Until May 11.