Daring. Hysterical. A little bit aggressive. The three ways I would describe The Book of Salt.
Often I like to pick apart each individual aspect of a show, but since this one still has three nights left I’ll lay off the spoilers and update this review once the run has concluded. I normally try to publish reviews after the run of the show when the spoilers don’t matter, but I felt too compelled by this to stay quiet. I really do recommend buying a ticket for this one because I cannot do it justice via text.
The Book of Salt is a cult comedy in the most literal sense. It tells the story of Brother Caleb and Brother Joshua, our fearsome and loving guides through our world of sin and how to overcome it. Complete with sermons and exorcisms, this surprisingly non-religious play has a lot to teach us about ourselves and how we treat one another, but through everyone’s favourite lens – humour. And it’s good humour! It is so hard to find truly belly-bursting humour but here we have it, and with a moral to boot. I am very partial to absurdism but can guarantee that even if you despise the absurd, you’ll find a joke in here that’ll make you screech. Even the most hard-boiled audience members were cracking a smile as they stood up at the end.
The conductors of this ride through the modern mind had us under a spell. I’ve seen a lot of unforgiving audiences lately but the actors here somehow eased us into such a trusting lull that we were all following their every command and somewhat embarrassing cues. They made us feel like the whole world was contained in that room and anything we did inside of it was trapped only in there for just eachother’s eyes only.
It’s important to mention that this show was constructed almost in its entirety by only three people. Directed to perfection by Rebecca Collin. With only two people carrying the onstage experience. Kevin Nguyen and George Samios deserve commendation for not only their impeccable acting but also for the witty and subversive script they co-wrote. There are also off script elements and superb audience interaction that they absolutely cannot predict, and their quick improvisation skills shine just as strongly as their seamless rehearsed sections. I haven’t seen actors this convincing a while, their anger is pure fury and their fear is purely petrified.
There are a variety of themes throughout The Book of Salt, and one that struck me strongest was the representation of power dynamics. I can’t describe it without giving too much away and will go into excessive detail once the show is over, but essentially it was exceptional. The way they manipulate the story to show the infinite potential in any person to be either good or evil is encapsulated in an hour’s performance, and it’s not even the main focus. The pacing and amount of subjects that our writers and director has crammed into an hour without the audience feeling under pressure is outstanding work.
The beating pulse of realism running through the veins of this performance is heart-wrenching. The atmosphere and tension is phenomenal in this comedy. Kevin’s face, contorted. George’s face – familiar but in a strikingly evil light. The anecdotes are clear and relatable. Everyone knows this character from high school, and no one knows if he ever grew out of it. And if that character happens to be you, this is a step by step guide on how to grow out of it. Not everyone will accept it, that’s okay, but this is truly a life changing performance for those who need it. Those who don’t will still undoubtedly be touched by the sentiment and the different ways it affects you, because everybody is affected by the topics in The Book of Salt.
The tech was not only innovative while also making sense, every cue was hit precisely on beat. It was used to convey messages in a way that I think a lot of performers consider an afterthought. The sound and lights were built into the bones of this and it served it so well.
I left this show absolutely breathless. I had absolutely no warning for how impressive this show would be. No inkling of the absolute rollercoaster I was in for. I bought this ticket on a whim thinking it would be amateur or boring, and yet I was presented with a true contender for my personal favourite Fringe show of all time.
The Velvet Card Critic