Who: Not Oasis
What: We’ve Come From Away (Toronto): A Sketch Comedy
Where: Players’ Guild (80 Queen Street South)
When: July 18-28, various dates & times (as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival)
Over the last several years, a flood of Torontonians have moved west to make Hamilton their home. This phenomenon has been accused of being a catalyst for worsening traffic, increasing housing prices and impacting the local economy. However, in We’ve Come From Away (Toronto), Toronto-based troupe Not Oasis has written a show that pokes fun at Toronto and Torontonians, perhaps reminding many new residents why they left (and many long-time Hamiltonians why they haven’t).
Not Oasis has been working as a troupe for several years, and work so well together that it isn’t possible to single out any particular performer for special accolades. The troupe met at Second City (Toronto), and as such, have a similar performance style. This is a group that is meant to work as a tight ensemble and does so successfully. Their script and show structure is reminiscent of what one would experience at a Second City mainstage production.
Second City mainstage performances are generally funny and topical. In this show, while the opening and closing scenes were directly related to the show’s theme (We’ve Come from Away (Toronto) ), the majority of the sketches were not Toronto-specific and could have translated to most audiences, whether they were familiar with Toronto, the recent migration of Torontonians to Hamilton, or not. With that in mind, there were no real risks taken by the troupe, although I’m not sure that was their intention. These shows generally have a wide commercial appeal, and are made to be pleasing to a large audience (which this one clearly was, even if a few sketches fell flat with the audience that attended the sixty-minute show).
With such a polished and crowd-pleasing production, it’s no surprise that The Player’s Guild was sold out for Not Oasis’ first performance, and the performance I attended had only a few open seats. Not Oasis has won several awards for their work and gathered a strong following both within and outside of the GTA. This combination means that there was never any doubt that this show would be (and is becoming) an audience favourite during this Fringe Festival.
While improv comedy in Hamilton has a home at the Staircase Cafe Theatre and standup is emerging at a number of local bars and clubs, Sketch comedy has yet to find its place. Yet if the full crowds at Not Oasis’ We’ve Come from Away (Toronto) is any indication, there is a hunger for it in Hamilton and capacity to be filled. Hopefully, Not Oasis and other sketch groups will keep returning to Hamilton to satisfy the demand of audiences and incubate this growing community.