Because no one demanded it…the two years late FRINGE ‘08 REVIEW!
Remember the summer of 2008? We were all a little younger, a little wiser, the Aloha Room was still open for cheap daytime drinking, Barack Obama still hadn’t ruined everything for political joke writers…simpler times. It was in such a dreamlike state that, on Thursday June 18th I finally gave in to my years of curiousity and decided to head over and see what this ‘Fringe Festi-val’ was all about. Right off the bat I was in for a surprise…it was a THEATRE festival! How quaint! They still did that sort of thing?
Still, I’m a folksy country gent at heart, so I thought I’d give it a shot. How bad could it be? My first ever Fringe show was an Australian comedy called GREED, by Weeping Spoon Productions. I was sold from the moment the first cardboard prop was rolled out, and I’ll always have a special place in my cold, dead heart for this show. From there I hit the…let’s call it ‘cozy’ Arts Court Library, for WOOSTER SAUCE. Now, we all loves us some Jeeves and Wooster, but I’ll admit to being taken by surprise when, a few minutes into this show, I realized there was only one actor. Playing both characters. Could…could you DO that? It wasn’t against some rule somewhere?
It was a great show by John Huston, and it went on to win best in venue that year, which I heartily agree with. Okay, sure, it was the only show I saw that year AT that venue, but I still take credit for the win.
I missed a day or so were, because as I said, this whole Fringe thing caught me by surprise. I regrouped my feeble wits and mounted a solid Monday assault, and my first 4-show evening (a pattern I’ve grown pretty accustomed to these days). First up was CRUDE LOVE by Big Smoke Productions, an eco-romance that charmed the Hell out of me. Next up…was this:
Yeah, things were starting to get awesome. My next show was THE SPY, my introduction to Jonno Katz (who, by the by, directed that video just above), a wickedly talented lunatic with more energy than a bag full of electric puppies. The evening finished off with A LEAVE OF ABSINTHE, an ensemble piece with terribly talented people (the Absinthe Collective, by name) being terribly cool and, well, talking a lot about Absinthe. They really dig it, see. Absinthe.
Now I was getting the hang of this Fringe thing. Showed up next for Randy Rutherford’s touching SINGING AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, an autobiographical piece with some lovely tunes from a talented cat. Next up I got introduced to the insanity bomb that is Jem Rolls and his show HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE MALL. Do a bloody runner! That was some high impact monologuing right there.
I was off running myself then, from the Mercury Lounge to the SAW gallery for SHE RULES WITH IRON STIX, wee Brigette dePape’s ultra-charming one-woman show about the world of baton twirling (which, after this show, I now love). And ended the eve with A GRIMM TALE, a wordess retelling of the Red Riding Hood story, that was just plain sexy. Nice.
Full steam ahead! Back the next day for OLD GROWTH, an eco-play that out-eco’d Crude Love with the help of Aura Giles’ hypnotic flute, and Alex Eddington’s full frontal nudity. Hey, I’ll take one in the face for theatre. Like I said, I’m all in at this stage. Next up was TOTEM FIGURES, an epic monologue by some fellow name of TJ Dawes who is apparently a big noise in Fringeland. He certainly seemed to know his way around a stage and script. I listened attentively and, flush with thoughts of the heroic myth and making my own Sgt.Peppers album cover, I sped off to CIRCUMFERENCE. Another Fringe supahstar, the lady miss Amy Salloway, in a tremendous show indeed that rocked my world.
By this point I was hooked worse than a heroin addict with low self-esteem and Daddy issues. The plays were comin’ fast and furious…HEY BARTENDER, a funny local ensemble piece, featuring Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter as the town drunk; THIS IS A VERY OLD STORY by the Ottawa Stilt Union, because it turns out everything is better on stilts; THIS IS A PLAY, some very clever and funny stuff from Daniel MacIvor and company; TRASHCAN DUET, a Jayson MacDonald penned romantic comedy that I totally grokked. Things were going well. So well that, my next day I decided to indulge myself and re-view a few of my fav’rits up to that point. Caught repeat performances of CRUDE LOVE (and I cried like a wee girly man, thanxverymuch), SHE RULES WITH IRON STIX, and TRASHCAN DUET (Billy/Stella 4EVER!!!). I skipped a performance after that to chill a spell in the beer tent, got to chat with Gillian from Crude Love and dole out some geeky praise in a nervous sweat, before I had to dash for the final show of the night. Which was SHADOWS IN BLOOM. Which is a one-woman play by the eerily talented Gemma Wilcox, in which she plays, like, ten thousand different people, places, abstract concepts, and whatever else you can think of, and seriously, guys, I did not know you could DO that with acting up until that moment. After it was over, I had a hard time convincing my brain that, yeah, there was only 1 person in that whole show.
I only managed 2 more shows at that year’s festivities, including Jayson MacDonalds’s BOAT LOAD, another fantastic surprise. A grown man was right in front of me, pretending to be a cat, and it was awesome. We love you, Mister Tangerine!!
My final show was Barry Smith’s AMERICAN SQUATTER, a wicked cool multimedia walk down Smith’s personal memory lane, with great punk rock music to boot (note: could we put Barry in charge of the music in the beer tent this time around? I can’t take another year of THE JEWEL).
And…that was it. It was over. I lingered around the courtyard, listening to people winning awards and studiously not talking to any of them ‘cause they’re all so COOL and who the Hell do I think I am, anyway? Ahem. But I’m still calling it a successful first Fringe, even if I did miss way too many shows that sounded awesome…INFERNO SONATA, THE TRICKY PART, JOE THE PERFECT MAN, etc. But I’d do better next year.
To be continued..!