'True Crime' a co-creation by Torquil Campbell and Chris Abraham in collaboration with Julian Brown
Crow's Theatre presents the Castleton Massive Production
Credit: Dahlia Katz. Pictured: Torquil Campbell
"A VOICE CHOICE"
A formidable storyteller with a passion and fondness for words and their sounds.
According to the Crow’s Theatre website, actor/musician (Stars/Memphis) Torquil Campbell made his stage debut in ‘True Crime’ when it originally premiered at Streetcar Crowsnest in 2017 when the building first opened. I didn’t see the show then so I’m unable to make any comments about his performance.
However, if this opening night of Campbell’s return to Crow’s indicates what I missed that first time, I’m glad the theatre gods aligned the stars in perfect harmony. Campbell delivers a splendid bravura performance. The play runs until Sunday, May 7.
A Crow’s press release gives important background information: “First chronicled in Vanity Fair’s “The Man in the Rockefeller Suit” in 2008, TRUE CRIME is the story of the real-world con man, the notorious Clark Rockefeller who successfully posed as a scion of the famous dynasty for well over a decade. Torquil Campbell wants to try him on for size. The audience learns Rockefeller now serves a near-life sentence in a California state prison. Along with this information, Torquil takes a deep dive into the bizarre real-life story behind notorious German conman Christian Gerhartsreiter for a mind-twisting encounter with an artist obsessed with faking it.”
Torq and (Crow’s Theatre Artistic Director) Chris Abraham have delightfully conspired to co-create a crime story of mysterious twists, turns and fabrications which have me constantly wondering what would transpire next in the plot. There’s no set or lighting designer listed in the programme, but credit is given to Production Designer Remington North.
The setting for ‘True Crime’ works beautifully in the main auditorium. It appears as if I’ve entered a slightly hazy, smoke-filled coffee house setting where the audience listens either to music, song, poetry, or stories. Stage lights mysteriously will rise in intensity and gradually fade throughout the play. There are approximately several round tables in front of the stage where some audience members sit. On the rectangular stage is a music stand from which Torq will read the script spiritedly. There is a microphone reminiscent of the ‘40s. A keyboard/piano is upstage and a chair from which Julian Brown plays the guitar.
Clad in blue jeans and a dark shirt, Campbell reads spiritedly from a script placed on a music stand in front of him. A couple of times he moves around the front of the auditorium shaking hands with several audience members as another character. There are several moments where he sings some songs, and what top-notch vocal delivery. Just hearing Campbell sing is a strong reminder to get tickets if his band is ever in Toronto soon.
Campbell remains an extraordinary raconteur and singer throughout the 90-minute sans intermission one-man solo show with finely subtle musical accompaniment by Julian Brown. A couple of times he moves around the tables in front of the stage assuming the voices of Christian and Clark and shaking hands with several audience members.
At one point, Campbell refers to the late ‘80s television show ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ with trench coat-wearing and hushed baritone-voiced host Robert Stack. I remember watching this show with my late brother. We were both riveted to the screen as Stack recounted stories either from long ago or not so long ago of supposed true crimes that took place. Stack knew how to lure audiences in weekly. He was a good actor and knew how to control a story and perhaps fabricate elements to keep up the weekly ratings.
Whether or not these ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ stories were true, we didn’t care. My brother and I were entertained for a good hour of good storytelling and that’s all that mattered then.
‘True Crime’ appears to be a true story. As Campbell narrates and speaks to the audience with tremendous vivacity, he appears determinedly resolute in wanting the audience to discover the truth of what happened to Rockefeller and Christian and those involved.
Or does he?
Is Torquil Campbell doing the same thing as Robert Stack? Is ‘True Crime’ a true story?
Campbell hooks me right at the top of the show. He remains resolute in his investigation of the story of Clark Rockefeller. A top-notch performing artist, Torq’s narrative voice and acute impersonations make me want to hear and trust everything I see. But like any good storyteller or raconteur, sometimes Campbell’s decisions and choices lead the audience to consider that what we might see and hear on the surface is not what really happens.
Or does it?
That’s the reason to come to Crow’s Theatre and discover for yourself.
Final Comments: This is my first time seeing Torquil Campbell perform. A formidable storyteller, his fondness for words and their sound remains exemplary.
‘True Crime’ is my Voice Choice.
Go see it.
Running time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
‘True Crime’ runs until May 7 in the Guloien Theatre at Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, call the Box Office (647) 341-7390 or visit crowstheatre.com.
CROW’S THEATRE Presents
The Castleton Massive Production
Created by Torquil Campbell and Chris Abraham in Collaboration with Julian Brown
Torquil Campbell, Co-Creator, Performer
Julian Brown, Composer, Musician
Chris Abraham, Co-Creator
Remington North, Production Designer