Toronto Fringe Review: Pirate Queen of the Stars

The magic of live theatre is that you can go many places. 17th Century Verona. Spain’s Camino de Santiago. An apocalyptic wasteland. You can experience stories from across the globe while sitting in one room.  Now, thanks to Pirate Queen of the Stars, that list includes outer space.

Making its debut at the Toronto Fringe is the latest endeavor by megnpetemakecoolstuff. They are a Toronto/Vancouver-based duo founded to… well, make cool stuff. Last year at the Fringe they staged their first show, People Suck. It came home with awards like Patron’s Pick and the Ed Mirvish Entrepreneurial Award. With that much pedigree in such a young company, this year’s Fringe provided them a choice: make a show that raised the stakes, or just do a victory lap. Luckily for us all, they went with the ‘stakes’ route.

Described by its creative team as the love child of Star Wars and The Book of Mormon, the term ‘space opera’ is gleefully taken to a whole new level. Although similar in tone and concept to Team StarKid’s musical ‘StarShip’ some years prior, similar can be a good thing. It means that we have a generation willing to push boundaries. In this case, the boundaries of what is physically possible onstage.

In a time when most visual feats in entertainment are CGI, Pirate Queen’ offers up practical effects. Like much of both theatre and science fiction, the production team had big ideas on a small budget. This means making things look out-of-this-world without the resources of Hollywood. And overall, the campy low-budget aesthetic actually works in favor of the show to establish tone. It tells us a lot about the would-be supervillain when the model for his Death Moon weapon is a disco ball. Although there are times, most notably the space battle, when more serious moments feel a bit too much like slapstick.

With a cast of 5 and no editing or cuts to fall back on, this company is clearly hard at work, but it pays off. The humour is consistently sharp and cheeky with numerous quotable lines and sly references to popular sci-fi.  Though they could have gotten away with a bread-and-butter adventure story, the writers pushed themselves. Instead we get a tale with heart, a closer look at sci-fi tropes and even some female empowerment. With 90 minutes jam-packed with aliens, robots and a bunch of original songs, this may well be the most ambitious show at the Fringe this year.

Pirate Queen of the Stars plays as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, check out the Fringe website or venue box office.

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