A couple of days ago, I finally got my hands on a copy of the new Fringe schedule booklet. I promptly cancelled all my plans for the day. It was just me and my Fringeticipation, and all was right with the world. I’m starting to annoy my co-workers, I can tell, but I don’t care. A week from now, I’ll be hip deep in Fringe and I love it. So much so that I’m going to keep sucking up precious intertube space with part 2 of my 1-year late FRINGE ‘09 REVIEW!
When last we left myself, I was 14 shows in and still feeling strong. Started a new day off with THE WOMEN COME AND GO…, a brief history of femininity of all stripes, by two of Ottawa’s Powerhouse actresses Mary Ellis and Kristina Watt. Seriously, these gals got game and it showed. The show ranged from deadly serious to hysterical with no missed beats in bwtween. As a counter to that, next up was TRIBULATIONS OF A FAILED VIGILANTE, a terrificly physical show put on by a pair of rubberfaced Canterbury grads with a cardboard set (just the way I like my sets).
Off to wee Arts Court Library (is it really a library?) for SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA, a sort of Shakespearean fanfiction bit from Steven Berkoff, and put on by a frighteningly talented duo from BC, Darren Boquist and Alicia Novak. Their performances, and what they pulled off with lighting and movement in such a small space, blew me away. Rounding off the night was the sure thing that is Jem Rolls with his LEASTEST FLOPS show, a collection of several of his performance poetry pieces, which again made me glad Jem doesn’t sell cd’s of his stuff, because I’d go broke collecting them. A whole story told in spoonerism? That’s comic-book-level mad genius, right there.
A great night of shows, and I was eagerly looking forward to the next all day at work, when…SABOTAGE! Which, as Star Trek VI explains, is a Dutch word meaning ‘ruining Kevin’s plans’.
Seems one of my co-workers decided HE needed that night off, in somewhat impromptu fashion (ie: he didn’t show up), and I got stuck hanging around all god damned day. Oh, I fumed, ladies and gents, I fumed and frowned and generally made an unpleasant pest of myself until I finally managed to wrest myself away from that terrible, not-Fringe place, and even though I’d by now worked about eleven hours straight, I still managed to get to the venue for the closing show of the night, this time SATANIC PANIC (or THE DEATH OF AL PACINO). Boy, am I glad I made it there, because that show was dynamite. Dark and wicked funny, a strong 4-hand cast (including Zach Counsil, in double Fringe duty…just like THIS year, now I think about it), it were a crowd pleaser indeed. And then I went home to bed, because I had to work ANOTHER all day shift the next day, even though I specifically asked NOT to work any nights during the Fringe, and they make me so mad I could shake my little fists sometimes!
Made it out of work late again, only time for one last performance, and I treated myself to a repeat of DUEL, because one can never see tomatoes explode onstage too often. The nice twist was also that I got to chat with a couple of the cast members in the tent afterwards, and quite delightful they were. I remember complimenting them on the way, when the lights dimmed between scenes and they had to rearrange their cardboard box (!) set, they would each stay in character as they did so. A sweet touch, and I appreciated it.
Nest day began with another repat, this time SATANIC PANIC (it was fun, sue me), before I went off and caught Ginette Mohr in FISH FACE. This was my kinda show, a one-woman, lotsa-characters fantasy tale of underwater kingdoms, and Mohr has an amazing talent for physical theatre. Later that year, I would catch her in Toronto for a preview of a new ensemble show she was working on, THE BELLE OF WINNIPEG. They performed a couple of scenes from the silent comedy, and she was absolutely terrific. I hope she comes back soon.
Next up was ENTER SCREAMING, a rapid fire sex farce that had the audience in stitches, tho I was a little ambivalent myself. Not that it wasn’t well done indeed, no sir, I think I just have a ways to go towards appreciating farce. I’ll get there (and it really WAS well done). Ended that night with some well deserved full-frontal nudity and WE NEVER CLOTHED, a smart period piece with the wunnerful Kate Smith and Amy Lester. Dug the use of modern music in the numbers, the performances were dandy, and…and…
…Oh yeah, boobies. That was nice, too. Yeah…
But whatever, on to a new day! Started the next one off with THIS IS A RECORDING, Simon Bradshaw and Kelly Rigole rocking my world with a show using real recorded dialogue from a variety of sources. If you missed it you missed out, but don’t worry, it’s coming back (I hear) as part of the UNDERCURRENTS mini-festival at the GCTC early next year. BE there!
From there I did HR Britton’s personal monologue JESUS RANT, a look back at his religious upbringing and how he broke away from it…maybe a touch too dry in spots, but a good time from a smart guy. And lots of reading recommendations in there, if you fancy some blasphemical nourishing (as all good little boys and girls should).
Sped off then, to see the highly touted COUNTRIES SHAPED LIKE…
…sorry, what’s that? Sold out, you say? Completely?
…shit. This is what happens when you book shows in Café Alt, which is approximately the size of my living room. Now Alumni Auditorium..! There’s a venue you could wrap your head around. Or rather you could NOT, because it’s so freaking huge.
So with COUNTRIES out (and don’t worry, I’d track it down eventually), I bolted to a different venue (the kind you could fit more than a dozen people into) and caught JUMP, a stunning solo show from Beverly Wolfe telling the tale of how one woman’s life peeled away from her childhood friend, and took her to strange, dark new territory. Wolfe, too, has game.
Ended with one I’d really been looking forward to, GRANDPA SOL AND GRANDMA ROSIE, a puppet theatre show from Australia and, specifically, Lana Schwarcz. It was fantastic, funny and adorable, and a nice way to end any day.
I’m getting tired writing this, so I must have REALLY been pooped actually seeing these shows (and have I mentioned yet that I kept seeing Nancy Kenny at, like EVERY show I attended? I think she may even have been in the audience at NO EXIT UPSTAGE, because she’s just that committed). But onward…still a few days to go, and I don’t want to split this entry into 3. Hit WELCOME TO THE MOON on the final Friday of Fringe, a collection of very well acted, very funny skits/scenes about love and life and occasional bouts of absurdity. Ran (and I mean RAN, the show lasted longer than I’d expected) to the SAW for Jimmy Hogg’s show LIKE A VIRGIN…very happy I made it in, because messr.Hogg is charm and with wrapped up in a weird-looking British package. If you saw this show, I’m sure you too will never think of Olympic Greco-roman wrestling quite the same way again.
Split then for Jonno Katz’ THE ACCIDENT, which I liked even more than the previous year’s THE SPY. Katz has physical comedy down to, well, an art (which it is, but you see what I’m saying here…), and his work in this piece was amazing to see. Dude was all over the place!
Back to SAW for HOUSE, Jon Paterson in a one-man…and I hate to use this term, but here goes…’tour de force’ (it applies, all right??). More MacIvor, who by now has become a Fringe name I recognize and take delight in (and he’s coming to the GCTC next year, so be prepared!), and Paterson absolutely knocked this shit out of the ballpark. Thundering good stuff.
The night ended with Toronto’s Christel Bartelse in CHAOTICA, a modern spin on Alice in Wonderland. I especially enjoyed this one because both myself AND Jonno Katz got brought up on stage for an interactive part of the performance. I dug that. I could stand some more of that…
Next day I caught Darren and Alicia from …OPHELIA, in their somewhat improvised, last minute Fringe addition THE ENTREPENEURS, a show they admittedly made up on the fly (and were STILL making up) to replace one that got knocked out at the last minute (something called THE HISTORY OF HAIR, and I won’t even speculate on THAT). I thought they managed well enough given the circumstances, and as mentioned, they’re both crazy talented, and I suspect this one got better the later you saw it. Afterwards I made it into a sold out repeat of CATGUT STRUNG VIOLIN, and loved it so much the second time it gave me fucking chills. Yankee Doodle went to town…
After that epic, I slowed down with John Sweet’s evocative one-manner WAITING FOR ANDRE, a touching recollection of a not-quite friend from the past. Stayed in that location (the wee library) for PORNSTAR, with little Anne Wyman breathing fresh life into my cold, dead heart with this little slice of absolute awesomeness. If you saw this show and are not currently in love with Anne Wyman, you are a monster.
Ended this penultimate Fringe night with a repeat of PITCH BLOND (made extra-squinky because Laura Harris actually gave me the codeword to get in free! Because that makes me all special and stuff!!) Great a second time, and that’s a talented lady right there.
And so…last day. Fitting perhaps that it was pouring rain, because the end of Fringe is like the death of a dream, the snuffing out of hope, a bootheel stepping on a human…
…wait, I’m not done the review yet, I should leave your souls intact a little while longer. *ahem* Started out with a repeat (my 5th of that Fringe, if you’re keeping score…you are, aren’t you??) of THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA, because I loved me some SLLoO.
Booted around next to the Alumni for Alan Shain’s one-manner UNDER THE RADAR…and holy Hell, Shain is a funny guy. It’s too easy to succumb to the idea of feeling sorry for him (like one schmuck in the audience, who kept exclaiming ‘Awww’, like some little girls’ pet unicorn had just drowned or something), because that’d be missing one of several points. My favourite point being, Alan Shain is fucking funny.
Got soaked on the short trip to IN A MAGIC KINGDOM , a one-woman show by the wickedly named Celeste Sansregret which was mostly a reflection on her experiences with death. It was funnier than it sounds, I swear, and expertly delivered theatre to boot.
The last show of the Fringe was one of those voted ‘Best of Venue’…which I have a problem with, as a concept. It’s just too inherently skewed towards local acts, and don’t get me started. But, some show that I hadn’t really felt like seeing called ON SECOND THOUGHT, managed to win its slot, so off I shuffled.
And there was Paul Hutcheson on stage, and life as we know it was good again. What a bloody charming, funny, amazing cat…I can’t WAIT until I see him again in something. Anything. Friggin’ genius.
And…that’s it. That is the Fringe that was, and I’ll shut up about it now.
…for about three days, until FRINGE 2010 starts up..! And actually, I’ll have something to say about it beforehand, too. God, I hope someone is reading this…