The Fast Forward Revue

Toronto Fringe Review: How to Build an Empire (A Boy Scout’s Guide) by Sempé


Fast Forward Rating: FFF½ (3½ out of 5)


This one-woman show illustrates the intriguing parallels between Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and the Boy Scouts of Canada by highlighting the imperialist rhetoric that links the two. The tone of the performance is light, to counterbalance the heavy subject matter. The gravity of the play’s message is demonstrated to full effect during the scene transitions, which consist of images projected onto a screen demonstrating shockingly racist and imperialist quotes and posters from Canadian history and government.

The set is minimalistic, and actress Stacey Douglas delivers an impressive performance as she bounces from character to character: geeky boy scout, high-school drama teacher, and teenage students giving in-class Canadian history presentations. Transitions are fluid, and accompanied by live music. Only the recurring image of the Nemean Lion, presented as a dancing lion shadow-figure behind a screen, is somewhat unclear and lacks cohesiveness as a visual element in the initial stages of the play. By the end, however, the symbol of the lion loses its ambiguity, and is even rendered poignant, as it becomes the sign for all those heroes wrongly accused as villains.

Director James Burrows notes that “imperialist roots in Canada run deep and are rarely discussed critically.How to Build an Empire certainly does address and criticize these tendencies, but manages to do so without coming across as contrived or too plaintive. It is both comical and light, but still delivers a serious message: what more could you ask for?



How to Build an Empire (A Boy Scout’s Guide) is playing at the Passe Muraille Theatre Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. (E. of Bathurst, N. of Queen) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.


Sunday, July 6, 8:00pm
Monday, July 7, 7:30pm
Wednesday, July 9, 8:15pm
Thursday, July 10, 1:00pm
Friday, July 11, 8:45pm
Saturday, July 12, 4:30pm


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