Fringe wrap

Okay, so i did five volunteer shifts (4 hours each) at the Winnipeg Fringe (July 16-27),  and ended up seeing 14 shows out of a possible 140.

Shows i saw, in addition to the ones reviewed below:

  • The Green Zone — I saw Winnipeg modern dance icon Jolene Bailie‘s solo show at the Vancouver Fringe years ago, and i just didn’t get it. All those shrugs, dramatic pauses, flailing limbs … i just didn’t have the movement vocabulary to make any sense of it. This time around, though: gorgeous. The movement was riveting, the lighting highly dramatic (something missing from every other Fringe show i saw), and it all somehow made sense. Jo has matured as a performer, and maybe i have too as an audience. Five stars.
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  • Totem Figures — Vancouver’s TJ Dawe, perennial Fringe workhorse, tells how it’s been for ten years of Fringing, in 90 minutes of wide-ranging, rapid-fire monologue that’ll make you listen closely and think hard to keep up. Impressive, but i’d like to have see a bit more theatricality (i.e. motion, lighting, variations in tone of voice). * * * * nonetheless.
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  • sucker — Truly creepy show about pedophilia, but not like you’re thinking, you fucking pervert. Men, stay away if you are anywhere near mid-life crisis. My gut wants to say two, but four stars for Fringeworthy impact.
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  • The Red Handkerchief — an ambitious pas de deux (quatre if you count the mannequins). Relationship story with ingenious theatrical twists — maybe too much so. Three stars.
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  • Manners for Men — I have to acknowledge this was well acted, by Justin Sage-Passant; it takes skill to maintain such a d-e-a-d   s-l-o-w pace throughout, along with such rock-steady characterization of a wingeing momma’s boy. Not much of a story, though. I wanted to shake the piss out of the guy after five minutes. 3 stars.
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  • American Squatter — American humourist Barry Smith basically gives a PowerPoint show about his growing-up years, including living in a London squat. The delivery was smooth, the PowerPoint slides were okay, but really … PowerPoint? 2 or 3 stars, depending.
Fringe line-up, from the Mondragon Cafe
Fringe line-up, from the Mondragon Cafe

And more importantly, shows i want to see at the Vancouver Fringe, based on reviews and scuttlebutt heard on the Winipeggy streets:

  • jem rolls: How I learned to stop worrying and love the mall — the best of spoken word and storytelling
  • The Tricky Part — a tough subject (child abuse from the abusee’s point of view), but powerfully written and superbly acted. Played to rave reviews.
  • Guernica — Deep, dark dance, a.k.a. physical theatre.
  • The Aethernomicon — it’s got puppets. Can’t resist that!
  • The Shakespeare Show or, How an illiterate son of a glover became the greatest playwright in the world — because it ain’t da Fringe unless there’s a Shakespeare angle.
  • Yorick! See mandatory Shakespeare reference above.
  • Crude Love — “a cynical eco-warrior falls in love with a Newfie woman dump truck driver in the harsh Alberta oil sands”
  • How to Fake Clinical Depression — ’cause i might need to know about this sometime.
  • ImproVision: Fast, Loose & Lovely — had the best posters, and ya gotta see at least one improv.
  • The Wrong Hole — because i can’t resist the title. Sketch comedy.
  • Sherlock Holmes & the Saline Solution — top marks from critics and audience.
  • Demons of the Mind — ‘Cause i’m a sucker for dance.
  • Spiral Dive — cousin Jim liked it.
  • It’s a Gay Gay Gay Gay World. Maybe if i’m in a gay mood.

Plus about 30 others, of course. It’s the Fringe, it’s s’posed to be a crapshoot. Be adventurous.

Most of these shows are heading west for the Calgary Fringe (Aug. 1-10), Edmonton Fringe (Aug. 14-24), Victoria Fringe (Aug. 21-31), and Vancouver Fringe (Sept. 3-14). Catch them — and a dozen more — when you can!

Fringe street meditators
Fringe street meditators

3-cornered fringe

Whew. Four hours of volunteering (parking duty, ugh) at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, followed by three plays, then an hour’s bus ride back to Mom’s place. The line-up tonight:

  • Skin Flick — three 20-somethings, all still living in their parents’ basements, get involved in making their first porno movie. Enthusiastic acting by young cast, fine comic timing, and beefy, witty writing by neophyte U of Winnipeg playwright Gonzalo Riede.
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  • Inferno Sonata, written and acted by Scott Sharplin (right) — Wow, a tour de force of acting in this highly eccentric, classical one-man show. Both annoying and riveting, it unfolds like a piece of origami on black paper. Sit up front. Best set you’ll see on a Fringe production.
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  • Old Growth — Had to see this one because it’s set in Haida Gwai — the demise of the Golden Spruce. Overly preachy, but a strong tale pulled, nay, dragged me through it. Alex Eddington wrote and stars, along with accomplished flautist Aura Giles (and i don’t even like flute). Passion! Drums! Nudity! Important Message! That’s what Fringe is all about, folks.

Okay, good night. It’s 12:16 a.m. and i have to get up at 7 to catch my 10-to-2 shift tomorrow morning — plus another couple of plays, of course!

Question: How come no older guys ‘n’ gals in the Fringe (so far)?

Fringe launch

Started today as a Fringe volunteer, and it was, er, somewhat less than inspiring. Parking, that’s me. I patrol the parking lane by the Old Market Square outdoor stage, and make sure only performers or vendors are parked there, and that they have the appropriate permit. You know what they say: give a little man a little power….

Nah, it wasn’t that bad. Just a bit boring. But i got to watch all the acts on the open stage — mostly aimed at kids, so a bit puerile.

But then came … the Fringe. Caught two plays after my shift:

  • Busty Rhymes and MC Hot Pink — a one- (Kiwi-)woman show about … mostly, her breasts. And the rest of her full figure. And problems with men. And Lots of energy, but the material didn’t seem fresh. I did learn the interesting fact that Auckland has 35,000 more single women than men. Hmm.
  • ‘Beth, which i went to because the timing was right and i could get a ticket, was an attempt at retelling Shakespeare’s Macbeth story in a modern, money-grubbing, doctor-the-will context. Didn’t quite work, but a brave effort. (I’m pulling punches here because i really admire Fringe performers’ guts — it’s naked theatre — and i cringe whenever i see a callously negative review.)

Both shows not terrific, but it’s inspiring to be surrounded by artistic energy. Theatre matters, and art matters, in this context.