“Trout Stanley”:  Looking for Love . . . and a Lake by Sylvie Webb



Sesaya specializes in music and arts education.

Natasha Mumba, Shakura Dickson, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff; photo by Joseph Michael Photography

It has been fourteen years since the Toronto premiere of Trout Stanley, and Factory Theatre is proud to announce the return of this outrageous, dark and comedic play.  

Playwright Claudia Dey introduces us to an absurd and wacky world populated by 30-year-old female twins and a man with a fish name, and consumed by the disappearance of the local Scrabble Champ Stripper. In the playbill, she declares that “Trout Stanley is about finding catastrophic, ecstatic, outrageous and devotional love in the merciless landscape of the north”.  I am already curious – about the play and about the fish name!

Seated in the gothic-like mansion of Factory Mainspace, the audience is transported to northern British Columbia – more specifically, a small log cabin on the outskirts of a mining town somewhere between Misery Junction and Grizzly Alley.  We meet our heroines Grace (Natasha Mumba) and Sugar (Shakura Disckson) on the eve of their 30th birthday, which happens to coincide with the 10th anniversary of their parents’ deaths.  

The sisters are struggling with issues of co-dependence and isolation, and both fear they are cursed by death. Grace works in the dump next door, and Sugar hasn’t left the house in 10 years. Their strange but stable life erupts into confusion and chaos with a visit from mysterious drifter Trout Stanley (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff).  Trout Stanley is also an orphan, and he never learned why his parents chose his fish name. He has been on a ten-year journey walking northward to find love  . . . and the lake where his parents drowned.

Of course, “a mysterious stranger comes to town” is a universal story arc, and Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu has coordinated a production where costume choice, scenic design, and music work together to enhance this initially familiar narrative flow.  With each character facing their deepest fears as a result of the mysterious stranger’s arrival and disruption to order, look for guidance as to what’s really going on in the evolving costume choices of both Gracey and Sugar.  

Set and costume designer Shannon Lea Doyle has created a believable world by using all aspects of the stage – from props to furniture to clothing – to illustrate the uniqueness of each character.  And in the end of this universal story arc, the conflict is resolved with satisfaction – and all can continue in their quest for love . . . and a lake.

I enjoyed Trout Stanley, as did the enthusiastic audience for the performance that I attended.  The actors are both compelling and fantastical, and the realities they portray immediately became ours to ponder and share.  As Grace says in the play, “It’s an unpredictable universe” –  and the absurd and wacky world of Trout Stanley is at once a microcosm and a spotlight on the chaos of our own.  

Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Shakura Dickson, Natasha Mumba; photo by Joseph Michael Photography

News You Can Use

What:  Trout Stanley by Claudia Dey | Presented by Factory Theatre Set, Costume Design by Shannon Lea Doyle Lighting Design by Raha Javanfar Sound Design by David Mesiha | Head of Props by Sophie Moynan | Head of Wardrobe by Joyce Padua | Fight Director and Intimacy Coach: Siobhan Richardson | Stage Management by Laura Baxter Apprentice Stage Management by Erin CunninghamDirected by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu

Performed by Shakura Dickson, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, and Natasha Mumba

When: On stage until November 10, 2019 | running time: 100 minutes (no intermission)

Where: Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto Ontario, M5V2R2

Info and Tickets: FactoryTheatre.ca

© Sylvie Webb, Sesaya / SesayArts Magazine, 2019

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