Calgary Fringe – Spitting In The Face Of The Devil – Review

Spitting In the Face Of the Devil

 Artpoint Gallery

July 31 &August 1,3,4 and 6


“When I got the phone call that the Devil was dead, I felt nothing.” At hearing this first line of Bob Brader’s one man performance, Spitting In The Face Of The Devil, we the audience feel nothing as well. But within minutes of the play’s highly charged dialogue, it becomes apparent that soon we will feel anything but nothing for the Devil in this play – Bob’s repugnantly abusive father.

The drama of what transpired between Bob, his father, his family and certain of Bob’s friends is shown to us through Bob’s running monologue in what feels like a series of short but achingly powerful stories. We hear about the physical abuse he suffered as a child when his father would whip him for wetting the bed, the verbal abuse as his father belittled his every accomplishment and claimed to be embarrassed by Bob’s lack of talent and the discovery of his father’s predatory sexual abuse and pedophilia.

Heavy material to be sure. Material that could have been melodramatic or self-pitying or even clichéd. But Spitting In The Face Of the Devil is none of these things. Instead Brader uses a matter-of-fact delivery in combination with volcanic sized energy and hints of humour throughout the play to allow the audience to follow along without getting bogged down in the sorrow of the story.

And then there’s the impressions. In telling the personal vignettes, Bob take on the personas in the dialogue playing his mother, his teachers, his doctors, his girlfriends and even the Devil himself. But it’s Bob’s impressions of himself as a toddler, a young boy and a teen that are the standouts here. Using both voice and physicality, Brader transforms from the adult on stage to the ages he talks about in the dialogue. The scene where Bob as a teenager dishes to his friend about his first breast fondle  is itself worth going to see the play for and one of the necessary funny reprieves from the central theme of the show.

The Fringe blurb describes Spitting In The Face Of the Devil as a “daring, uplifting and comedic solo show”. After seeing the play I find this somewhat misleading. The play is daring – Brader certainly lays himself and his family bare in the play. But uplifting and comedic? Sure there are humourous moments, some quite funny, but I would in no way call this performance comedic. In fact I found many of the “funny” bits rather sad and pathetic in the way I think Bader intended them to be. As for uplifting, well that I don’t get at all. This is a play without a happy ending or a neat resolution. It’s a true story that is messy and fraught with contradictions. An authentic, horrific, real slice of life. And that’s what makes it so good.


For the guys – Hopefully you can’t relate to the story, but you will most certainly empathize with the struggles of a boy and young man trying to navigate a tragic upbringing. SEE IT

For the girls – He doesn’t ask for your pity, but your heart will bleed and you will be rooting for Bob and his mother the whole way though. Even if they disappoint you. SEE IT

For the occasional audience – Solo shows without any action are often hard for this group. But Bader’s high energy performance and gripping story will wow you. SEE IT

For the theater junkie – Some of the vignettes could have been edited out and there were notable holes in the story line. However this will not take away from your appreciation of the superb acting job and compelling script. SEE IT


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