This summer, Kingston’s Kick and Push Festival welcomes multi-award-winning Toronto comedy group Sex T-Rex to its stage with Swordplay: A Play of Swords (tickets available here). A vibrantly funny, inventively staged parody of classic swashbucklers and fantasy franchises such as The Princess Bride, The Three Musketeers, and Final Fantasy, Swordplay also happens to stand as a darn good fantasy yarn all on its own. The main plot revolves around two swashbuckling friends who, after the death of their third musketeer, must pull themselves together for one last adventure that involves saving a kidnapped princess and preventing war between nations. The chief joy of the show’s premise, however, is when the stock elements start to fall apart, to be undercut and rearranged throughout until the show has defied every expectation.
A darling of the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit and beyond, Swordplay is one of those shows that has a reputation for hooking audience members (like me) into returning for a second, third, or even fourth viewing. It’s that good.
So here’s the big question: what’s the deal with Sex T-Rex’s Swordplay, and why have I seen it four times? That’s pretty intense, right? For most people, seeing a play twice is a big commitment. The thing is, I also have friends who have clocked similar Swordplay numbers—most of whom I used as an excuse to up my own count by inviting them along in the first place.
I’ll do my best to explain, but trying to articulate what makes this show so dang fun is sort of like trying to describe what it looks like to stare directly into the sun. So much of it comes down to a killer combination of elements, from the strong cast of comedians (Conor Bradbury, Julian Frid, Kaitlin Morrow, Seann Murray, and guest star Jon Blair) to the unique stage work to the genuinely enjoyable and original fantasy plot.
Firstly, Sex T-Rex’s style is highly cinematic and remarkably limber, animated by the sort of madcap energy that always feels just seconds away from veering off the rails. This is the chief joy of their work: everything comes at a swift left-turn from where you thought it was going, including swords flying across the stage in a beautiful ballet of gut-piercing action and plot twists that just keep upping the stakes.
The best part is that the show is incredibly light on props or sets: most of this action and set-dressing is achieved by the actors’ bodies and choreography, where they play everything from fireplaces to footstools to forest critters.
It all rattles along with the unexpected energy of a speedboat launching off the side of a skyscraper and into a helicopter. That is to say, between battling fire-breathing dragons, swashbuckling atop chandeliers and leaping off exploding buildings, it’s frankly incredible to see how much inventive stagecraft and hyper-committed combat can pull off on stage. The show isn’t just funny, it’s surprising, and that’s what makes it so fun to watch again and again.
It’s a vulnerable thing to admit that I’ve seen anything as many times as I’ve seen Swordplay. But if doing so will encourage you to check out this good-hearted, dazzlingly performed goofball comedy, then I’ll admit it with joy. Go see Swordplay, Kingstonites! If nothing else, it will make you think twice about not believing in dragons.
SwordPlay is currently set to play at the Grand Theatre, Regina Rosen Auditorium on July 19th, 2018. Tickets are $10 plus handling fee, and can be purchased through the Grand Theatre box office, or online (see link above).
Join us July 19th at 8:30 pm for ‘Swordplay: A Play of Swords’. Before the show, join us for a drink and a preview of the Storefront Fringe Festival, beginning at 6:30 in the Davies lounge. Find out more: https://www.facebook.com/events/192274084808575/
By: Lin Young