Fringe 2008, 2 years later

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?

Did they not know about DVD?

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?

Another barrier successfully broken by JCVD.

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.

Watch for my one-man show, THE JAMESON’S IRISH WHISKEY COLLECTIVE, coming soon to a ditch near you.

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.

No, but there’s REALLY 2 of them...right??

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.

And I'd get to meet Amy Salloway, too. How cool is THAT??

To be continued..!

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