Next Stage Festival: Blood Ties

Macabre musical slays at Toronto Fringe's Next Stage Fest

Presented by Edge of the Sky
Written by Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston
Directed by Ann Merriam

Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston in Blood Ties.

How far would you go to help a friend? Playwrights Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston explore this question in their chilling musical Blood Ties, now playing at Factory Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe's Next Stage Festival. The show has previously been a hit at SummerWorks, the Edinburgh Fringe, and on BBC America’s Orphan Black.

Based on true events, Blood Ties centres around Sheila (Anika Johnson) who's uncle shoots himself in his bathroom on the eve of her wedding. When her three best friends, Franny (Barbara Johnston), Paul (Carter Hayden) and Larry (Jeremy Lapalme), arrive in town to celebrate they are instead faced with the task of cleaning up the considerable mess left behind. As they take turns mopping up the blood-splattered bathroom they discover that uncle Conrad (Kent Sheridan) was hiding a threatening secret, and life as they knew it has unalterably changed. 

Part ghost story, part thriller and part coming-of-age parable, Blood Ties is at once darkly funny and surprisingly moving. The relationship between opposites Sheila and Franny is particularly interesting to watch and both Johnson and Johnston bring refreshing authenticity to the characters.

At 75 minutes, the production is fast-paced and smoothly staged with creative costume and set design by John Leberg. The score is catchy and haunting with clever lyrics that will stay with you long after the curtain call.

Don't miss this killer Canadian musical experience.

Blood Ties runs until January 15, 2017 at Factory Theatre. Visit for the show schedule and to buy tickets.

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