SPUNKED UP A WALL by Harry Hornett and Jimmy Hogg, directed by Emily Wurts, with Hogg; THE OTHER ANNIE written and directed by Hogg, with Wurts. Presented by Medusa Productions and afff entertainment at Berkeley Street (26 Berkeley). Runs to January 24, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $20, matinee pwyc. 416-368-3110. Rating: Spunked NNN ; Annie NN Rating: NNN
Two different characters, one extroverted, the other introverted, provide the yin and yang of a pair of solo performances focusing on street people. Both pieces are strongly performed, but the scripts aren't equally engaging. Spunked Up A Wall , written and performed by Brit Jimmy Hogg , is more winning theatrically, in part because of Hogg's jerky, confrontational acting style as the speaker, Harry. Homeless in London, he philosophizes on his outsider role in society, combining a series of possible and contradictory autobiographical pasts with constantly shifting tacks on begging from passersby.
Harry deals with his addictions with an ironic shrug - "Well, it's not for everyone" - and turns a grim humour on himself and the world at large. Hogg knows how to cleverly marshal his character's energy, appearing vibrant one moment and hangdog the next, and playing nicely off the show's live musicians, picturesound ( Fabio Sartori and Mark Vogelsang ). Ultimately, Harry becomes a Godot-like figure lost in a landscape he can't quite understand or alter.
In the program, Hogg tells us he drew some material for The Other Annie from a longer piece, which may account for the less complete feel of his other street person, an anxious Torontonian whose irregular sleep habits tip her into a sometime fantasy world.
There's much more we'd like to know about her than this slight character sketch provides, including the hinted-at relationship with her mother and why she uses different styles of speech. Even so, Emily Wurts captures Annie's various moods, with eyes that aren't quite focused and moments of roaring anger alternating with lonely sadness.