By Jay Menard
Full Tilt Boogie, by Sean Quigley, is an ambitious production that attempts to tackle multiple topics: distribution of wealth, xenophobia, social media discourse, and hope. It’s at once both too much and not enough. And while there are elements of a solid production there, it remains too much of a superficial examination of today’s life to actually be moving.
Quigley plays the role of storyteller, songster, and raconteur. Unfortunately the tone he uses, especially with a largely familiar audience that skewed larger than the average Fringe show, was fairly condescending. Conscripting Friendly Giant-esque story time and using an elementary teacher-esque delivery undermines the messages Quigley’s trying to tell.
He spends much of his time verbally pointing at things: xenophobia, those who opposed BRT and sanctuary cities, our lack of compassion towards the homeless, and the faults of big business in their greed and failure to redistribute wealth. He tackles the “check your privilege” mentality with a cursory statement about how perhaps we just need to show more compassion.
Essentially, his message is that if we were just nicer to each other, listened more, and loved more instead of acting — and reacting — with anger, our world would be a better place.
There are a few tangents in the play, going back to Quigley’s youth, revolving around a budgie and a toboggan hill. Neither add tremendous value or tie into the themes, but do show Quigley at his most animated. For the most part, he spends his time reading his performance, which severs the connection with the audience.
That may be by design, however. Early on he explains his show is, in fact, a Chautauqua, and that he only finished re-writing it last week. With some notable and distracting spelling mistakes in the powerpoint and the aforementioned reading, it’s clear that there’s only room for growth in the future.
The elements of a solid play are there. As it stands, Full Tilt Boogie covers too many topics — and that’s magnified by the fact that it’s performed in the same venue as a vastly superior and tightly focused socio-economic production in The Fever. As well, Quigley only scratches the surface of the topics — pointing fingers at everything that’s wrong, but missing out on an opportunity to delve into his actions, reactions, and motivations. There’s a lot of breadth in the show, but not more depth.
At the end, Quigley references the prophetic voice, listing off Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and the Fathers of America as those who used their words to inspire, before outlining his hopes for the play. He speaks of his Sisyphean task of rolling a rock of hope up that metaphorical mountain and his desire is that the audience join him in moving that boulder — even if it’s just an inch.
It’s an ambitious thought, but one that requires a much stronger foundation from whence one can push. Tighter focus, better introspection, and a less superficial examination of a few key issues can help improve Full Tilt Boogie in the future.
** — two stars out of five
This review initially appeared on theatreinlondon.ca