On a business trip to Toronto, I read the tourist magazines looking for some kind of theatre event that would fit in my schedule and my budget. I considered The Normal Heart at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, but it was sold out at the only times I was free. I ended up choosing “Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare”, a new Canadian Theatre 20 musical about the serial murderers in 19th century Edinburgh who sold their victims’ bodies to a medical school. It was at one of the big Mirvish theatres, the Panasonic Theatre, which is a modern functional space on Yonge Street with a tiny lobby and the bathrooms in the basement, rather than one of the ornate refurbished theatres like the Elgin or Royal Alex. I picked this show because it seemed less predictable or tourist-oriented than most of them. People who go to a matinee of a musical on a weekday seem to be mostly old people or school groups.
Reviewers didn’t like it much, but I enjoyed it. I thought it was neat that it got its start as a Winnipeg Fringe show three years ago. There were about 14 people in the cast, with the ensemble smoothly filling various minor roles and moving scenery between scenes. I liked the way that it started out with a sort of likeable-scoundrels tone but gradually darkened as it drew us in, showing conflicts between the conspirators as they attempt to define and redefine what’s not okay, and showing the disturbing class-based double standards, depending on who the victim was and also contrasting the doctor who purchased the bodies and the hand-to-mouth labourers who provided them.
The sets were simple and not distracting. The period costumes were fun to look at. The production is new enough that it doesn’t have a page on Wikipedia or a cast recording on iTunes, and there wasn’t any souvenir merchandise for sale in the lobby either.