Out of Victoria Fringe Festival Comes Theatre SKAM’s SciFi The Rage Trials

1 Sep

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By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Imagine, if you will, an alternative universe–a world just like our own, but different. Every 100 years, seven randomly selected teenagers get to decide the emotional foundation to which humanity has to adopt. The science is never explained in how one can edit the wide range of feelings a human has to express, but the option exists to wipe away the trait known as anger.

Theatre SKAM‘s The Rage Trials is not unlike The Hunger Games, The Purge or Logan’s Run of how a greater will can impose a ‘natural selection’ in the continuation of a species. Playwright Emma Leck is better known for her play Drops in a Broken Fountain which examines the human condition. It won the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Award of Best New Play. She also wrote a similarly philosophical work How to Want (an Intrepid Theatre YOUshow with Vino Buono) which Joff Schmidt of CBC News wrote she’s a talent to watch.

If she saw reruns of The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), then I’d say her play is heavily inspired by this television program. Whether an individual should express anger and frustration in any moment of stress is a tough call. When the seething tide of this emotion cannot go unrestrained, problems will arise. People can become deathly afraid of either being the victim, being the aggressor and being unable to stop once when the anger begins. Near the same time was the arrival of The Dark Crystal (1982). This film’s back history revealed a race out to eradicate their darker, baser emotions. That resulted in the creation of two subspecies divided in  furthering their own existence and forgetting where they came from. The connections to pop culture Rage Trials borrows from is not obvious, but the astute can see what Leck may have been drawing from.

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This play feels like a work in progress exploring issues in sociology than science fiction. I hoped for more of the latter so a context to why this council was convened is better explained. Audiences have to take for granted that the ability to edit emotions is one of magic than science. When considering part of this show’s advertising campaign for this show included collecting tarot-like cards and the entryway to the room had a magical secret order quality to it (terrific set design), I felt the energy.

Once inside, we find members of this performance troupe  transition into the roles as described by the card. Frankie Wilson plays Sash, the Peacekeeper, Isabel Moffitt is Alex, the Activist; Atticus Cohen-Yelle becomes Elliot, the Saint, Rachel Hansen portrays Adelaide, the Challenger, Grace Martin turns into Naomi, the Scientist, Finn Kelly becomes Dylan, the Fighter and Emily Bourbeau is Batgirl, er Parker, the Vigilante.

Martin certainly stayed unnerved when tensions rose high. I compare her character to that of Jan Brady of the 70s Brady Bunch, having a certain naivety when contrasted to the more cosmopolitan Alex. This character’s growing anxiety was very noticeable. Dylan may have wanted to be like a Rocky Balboa although, I do see how Parker wanted to become something more than a victim to all the crimes she witnesses on the streets. She wants to do something about it!

Mikaela Haeusser directed this work and made great use of the venue to give us an intimate performance. We see up close the fits these characters go into–some are all out and others trying their best to suppress that rage obviously seething deep within. To behave in what society defines as right or wrong is still a complex issue explored in many a great story. DC Entertainment’s cinematic universe had its time in the controversial scene where Superman snapped Zod’s neck to save three humans–even though it came at a cost of deflating what he represents, a pacifist who does not kill.

This play in its current form will get folks talking. Its provocative and compelling theme of whether we can play Doctor Frankenstein is what I saw more than the Socratic debate. At the Fringe theatre performance level, it could be testing the waters on whether the show can go on. It may undergo tiny revisions before it goes on tour or be offered to schools as a morality play in what we are as a species. 2001: A Space Odyssey here we come!


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3 Responses to “Out of Victoria Fringe Festival Comes Theatre SKAM’s SciFi The Rage Trials”

  1. Kelly 2019-09-01 at 8:00 pm #

    You neglected to mention the character Sash, the Peacekeeper, played by Frankie Wilson. Kinda sucks to be the only cast member left out of a review.

    • Ed Sum 2019-09-01 at 9:56 pm #

      My sincerest apologies. The omission was not on purpose. I thought I had everyone credited and have now fixed,

      • Anonymous 2019-09-01 at 10:18 pm #

        Thank you!

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