Fringe Festival review: PRUDE is a potent and powerful solo show

Toronto Fringe 2022 review of Prude
Courtesy of Probably Theatre Collective

PRUDE written and performed by Lou Campbell (Probably Theatre Collective/Toronto Fringe Festival). At the Tarragon Theatre Solo Room (30 Bridgman). July 8 at 8 pm, July 9 at 4:45 pm, July 10 at 8:45 pm, July 12 at 6:30 pm, July 13 at 9:15 pm, July 14 at 2:30 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Lou Campbell gets full marks for originality in PRUDE, their difficult-to-categorize solo show about the pressures put on people to party, drink, take drugs and have sex.

Not that this feels like a PSA, mind you. Bursting onto the stage at the Tarragon Solo Room in a head-to-toe spandex suit the colour of lox cream cheese, complete with orange cape/skirt and matching crown (Everette Fournier is costume designer), Campbell rouses us with a high-energy routine about being the “King of the Party.” Between blaring music and air horns (the sound design, by Peter Sarty, is impressive) and some call-and-response action, Campbell’s strutting character dispenses lots of aggressive, motivational-speaker-type jargon.

But it’s all a bait-and-switch as they gradually dig deeper into the dangers of forced conformity – whether about mind-altering substances or sex itself. Contrasting with the high-energy moments are powerful scenes of high schoolers at a debauched trip to a tropical resort, a house party gone very wrong and glimpses at the pervasive booze industrial complex.

While the piece, efficiently directed by Stevey Hunter, could be developed a bit more, especially after some poignant revelations in the final scene, it’s always watchable, and Campbell delivers a layered, nuanced performance full of heart, soul and some killer dance moves.


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