Faris Who Talks to Rats: An Imaginarium of Innovation

Faris Who Talks to Rats: An Imaginarium of Innovation

Once upon a time, in a coffee shop probably around the corner from you, a young woman spends her days in a state of ennui. Not depression, let’s be clear, no, Faris is feeling ‘lukewarm’ about life. But this is a tepid existential crisis no one in her circle has the power to alleviate. Not customers, co-workers, and not her somewhere in the clouds therapist. And no wonder, for as Faris succinctly states: “You know how when you tap on a youtube video to see how much longer it’s going to take? I do that with people.” Falling into Jungian slumber, and thus visited by an ever-expanding menagerie of fairies, Charlotte van Walraven’s Faris is the perfect foil. No matter how jumpy and frenetic the creatures that pop up become, we keep watching Faris. She never blends, she stands out and receives, and we receive with her. She even holds her own when conversing with a couple of quick witted, cute rats, charmingly manipulated by Jessica Sloan and Mike Kosowan. And this reserve is well matched with Douglas Connors’ Basilic, a weird invention who emerges just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder.


In response to her general state of disaffection with life, Faris dreams up a landscape of id-inspired beings. Our girl is on a quest, led by the irrepressible Trixie played by Hayley Berketa. Along the way Faris seems called upon to counsel the characters she encounters as much as they advise her, but the message is clear, Faris is the chosen one. But, chosen by whom and for what? Well, to stop the Dark Fairy from breaking into the vault of dreams to steal the world’s magic, of course. For what are we without our dreams?


There are some very clever moments in this fairy tale for adults. Even the set changes are funny, though like any running joke a sudden twist in the routine would add a layer of humour to the succession of codas.


What passes here is magic without benefit of extraordinary special effects. At one point a children’s castle is introduced, and in the next scene we find ourselves inside that castle. The play’s magic moments depend as much on the actors to respond and engage with sound and lighting as they do on the effects themselves.  This integration between technology and the actors gestures, is always interesting to watch, and very much to the credit of writer/director Allan Mackey. The actors’ bodies, the text and the technology are all intertwined; the effectiveness of one component dependent upon the other. What needs a little more infusion of energy is the pacing of the piece. (No one needs to speak faster – indeed, some of the performers speak far too quickly.) But there are spaces between transitions that could be sharper.


Faris Who Talks to Rats gives us many of the classic tropes of a fairy tale, and that is one of its strengths. In the end, we find out the source of Faris’ ennui, and we understand her state of stasis. A few hints of that important revelation seeded throughout the play would create a little more suspense. Dreams, after all, are full of signs and signals mined from the depths of the unconscious.


In the end, we realize that Faris will bear a mantle of sadness for a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean she can’t dream and strive to be happy in the wake of that loss. “Magic is what fills your heart”, Trixie tells her.  And yes, you do have the right to laugh. So take up your feathered sword and fight the good fight.


If you’re looking for something completely different in your Fringe Binge package, Faris Who Talks to Rats is a fun ride and a show that features fresh new performers, a playwright and director who challenges form and content, and – the night I saw the show – an audience who thoroughly enjoyed a glimpse into this show’s jar of dreams.

Academic Hall, Venue  3

Theatre Underground  Written and Directed by Allan Mackey

FARIS: Charlotte van Walraven

TRIXIE: Hayley Berketa

LENOSTRA: Vanessa Pauzé

PUCK: Sophie McIntosh

BASILIC: Douglas Connors

SPROCKET: Jessica Sloan

FAUCET: Mike Kosowan

STAGE MANAGER: Natasha Trepanie. 
 SOUND DESIGN: Jeremy Piamonte


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