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Fringe Review: A Tension to Detail

By Kenneth Ingram on June 20, 2016

60 minutes | Comedy, Solo | Mature

British storyteller Gerard Harris takes advantage of the hour to skillfully cast himself as a guy who is down on his luck in A Tension to Detail.

Self-described as disadvantaged because he’s a white, middle-aged, heterosexual man, Harris gives the audience plenty of reasons to feel bad for him as he shouts and sputters with a lisp. You’ll hear about his brushes with death, embarrassing moments from his youth and unapologetic ‘overshare’ regarding his inclination for frequent wanking.

If you’re still not convinced, he explains that his handwriting has a distinct lisp too. With an emphasis on the art of storytelling, Harris’s tales unravel in exquisite detail as a one-way conversation that delivers like a confession. The audience is free to indulge as he divulges yet throughout the show there’s an underlying question: do you really believe him?

“Never trust the teller, trust the tale,” he offers as important advice, taunting the audience as he calls into question the truthiness of his own stories. His reference to a dog IQ test that was calculated by a man in Vancouver, for example, is true. Having an out-of-body experience while listening to an album dedicated to the legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau? Perhaps.

And while adult subject matter characterizes this show, humour is woven throughout it like an ephemeral antidote. One example is how Harris transitions from the story of a 200-pound pedophile to the comparison of his Jewish mother to the bite of a pit bull. Then there’s his comparison between two live lobsters moving in a plastic bag and a particular aspect of the male anatomy.

Stripped down to its bare parts (Harris does eventually remove his sneakers and socks), the show contains an ample supply of word play. That should be expected from a Brit—and especially one whom equates the dictionary to ecstasy. Yet Harris claims that his craft as a storyteller is unpredictable because what comes into his mind ─ and out of his mouth ─ are two different things.

Should you be tempted to discern fact from fiction in A Tension to Detail, Harris implies that a major perk to being a good storyteller is that “you can live any life you want to.” Left unsaid is what’s equally important: you need people who will listen, too.

A Tension to Detail, La Nouvelle Scène, 333 King Edward, Wednesday, June 22, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, June 24, 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 25, 10 p.m.; Sunday, June 26, 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12.