By Sandy Gibson
50 minutes | Comedy, Drama, Multimedia, Solo | PG
It’s evident that a lot of effort has been put into #staystrong, an original solo piece by the 2015 Ottawa Fringe Emerging Artist Award winner Tamlynn Bryson. From the varied set to the creative use of a projector to display text messages, video posts and medical information, Bryson has done a great job of using tools available to 21st century artists on limited budgets. In addition to this, she adopts various stage pictures to keep her audience interested.
Listed as a comedy, #staystrong explores issues surrounding social media, body image and exercise addiction. While it delivers adequately on the latter, I can’t say the same for its comedic elements. The premise — an avid fitness blogger who gets injured and has to deal with the consequences — seemed full of potential for humour, but I didn’t find it particularly funny. There were a few clever jokes and I did laugh on numerous occasions. However, these were outweighed by sudden transitions to painful moments which featured Bryson’s character Val making poor decisions that left her writhing on the floor in simulated agony. The result was a series of confusing moments when I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or wince at what was happening onstage. Even the ending was confusing, requiring Bryson to come out onstage and tell us that the show was over.
Bryson has succeeded in creating an emotionally provocative play that makes you think about very relevant problems. Her acting was sound, the set was well-thought out and the sound and lighting cues were well done. Perhaps my frustrations with the show can be attributed to the fact that I was expecting comedy but was unsatisfied by how much comedy there was in the show. For those considering whether to see #staystrong, if you are looking for a fun show full of laughs or if you are easily frustrated by difficult characters, you would be better off looking elsewhere. If you enjoy the emotional backstory of a single character being exposed over the course of 50 minutes and don’t mind uncomfortable scenes, this play might just be up your alley.
#staystrong is playing at the Arts Court Theatre on Sunday, June 19th at 7:00pm; Wednesday, June 22nd at 5:30pm; Thursday, June 23rd at 9:30pm; Saturday, June 25th at 6:00pm and Sunday, June 26th at 2:00pm. Tickets are $12.