Toronto Fringe Festival: "Factcheck"



By: MIRIAM CROSS  
Published: July 1st 2010
in Culture » Stage

Factcheck Photos
Pic: D.Picard Photography

Finally – the lowly magazine fact-checker gets his due. Michael Posner’s 60-minute comedy Factcheck shines the light on one of these unfortunate individuals – among the most underpaid, undervalued, and invisible members of the magazine staff – through a day in the life of Drew Williams, a young magazine fact-checker who dreams of becoming a writer but first must contend with mounting deadlines, a demanding editor, a missing coworker, and a host of facts that don’t seem to be right.

 

The basis for Factcheck is inspired but for the most part, the play itself isn’t as clever or original as that idea. Courtenay Stevens stars in all 16 roles, playing everyone from a cranky secretary to a Zen-ed out yoga instructor to Bill Clinton himself. He does the harried-fact-checker look well, and shines in a few of the quirkier roles – a silken-voiced extraterrestrial woman who reads minds stood out – but relies too much on broad caricatures to portray the rest. The legless Japanese inventor speaks in a tacky Oriental accent and confuses his Ls and Rs; the Palestinian professor who refuses to acknowledge Israel’s existence yells angrily all the time; etc.

 

It’s not all Stevens’ fault though – there are so many characters that most of them just blur together. Factcheck would have done better to focus on a few, such as Angelina Jolie’s Indian yoga instructor, whose refutation of the claim that Jolie does yoga naked forms the ‘climax’ of the play.

 

Factcheck was a show I really wanted to like, and it was certainly amusing at times. Even though Drew wasn’t a very productive checker (just stop taking so many personal calls already!), the play captures the frenetic feeling of a checker under pressure, the tedium of chasing so many sources on the phone, and the sweet satisfaction when things go right – at least for a moment. But instead of sticking to lazy stereotypes (even if that was the intention), it would have been nice to see the story fulfill its potential and offer some sharper insights into the world of fact-checking – after all, the real-life work of a fact-checker is rich in ludicrous scenarios and outrageous characters, and those stories deserve to be told.

 

About Michael Posner:

 

Michael Posner has never been a fact-checker, though he’s worked with several over his journalistic career. “I’ve worked for a lot of magazines, so I know what fact-checkers go through,” he told Shalom Life. “I’ve had them check my copy and I know how difficult their lives are, and how overworked and underpaid and besieged there are.” He currently works for The Globe and Mail and writes plays in his free time. His first play for the Fringe, Damages, was a Patron’s Pick in 2008 and set in the post-Holocaust era.

 

 

 

The Toronto Fringe Festival runs until July 11. For more information, visit www.fringetoronto.com. For more information about Factcheck, visit www.factchecktheplay.com.



Related articles: (stage, toronto fringe festival, fringe theatre, factcheck, michael posner, courtenay stevens)




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