It’s later than I thought.

See, I’d meant to be home a little earlier than I am…but my bike light was out, so I bussed downtown instead, and then I stayed too late in the Courtyard and had to take the 95 partway home, and cab the rest of the way.   Only no fucking cabs would STOP for me, so I ended up walking the last 35 minutes home.  Now it’s quarter after two as I start this review.  I’m killer hungry.  And I start work in less than seven hours.

Fringe, how I’ve missed you.

Got an early start to the Ottawa Fringe 2010 in the Byward Market, and the Mercury Lounge.  There, the earliest show of the festival was playing at 5:30, and I’d vowed to be there.  A few lovely wee gals in volunteer shirts were there to cheerily sell me some pins and tickets, and I finally had the moment I’d been practicing for weeks.  I inquired as to whether they had any of the ten-show passes left…they said yes, and did I want one..?

With a shit-eating grin, I replied, “I would like FOUR, please.”  Oh yeah. THEY were impressed.  Or at least, they were amused by the cocky monkey shelling out three hunnert bucks for Fringe tickets, while all the REAL reviewers probably get’em comped or something cool like that.  Whatever.  This is me, keeping it REAL (well, real short of cash, at the least).

So the show was one TRANS-CANADA ‘69, a one-manner by BC’s Colin Godbout.  I entered the Lounge where he was already settled on the stage, seated with guitar in hand, and rattling though some practice tunes as if he regularly did so in his sleep.  A little excess noise from without, a drum frenzy from the competing Franco Fest just down the street, threatened to drown him out even before he began, but we were reprieved just in showtime.  And a fine show it was.

Colin took us on a sort of temporal tour across Canada, via the musicians and artists of 1969…the works of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Glenn Gould, Liona Boyd and others were represented, plus a handful of originals.  A few sound effects and Colin’s own hypnotic charms accentuated the songs, the occasional banter about trains with the audience (including, I believe, ubiquitous Fringe superfan Brian Carroll)…it was a frankly wonderful show…there was a lovely moment when, just before launching into a new song, he invited us to all sing along, because he ‘didn’t know the words’ anyhow.  Godbout is frighteningly masterful with the guitar, reminding us all what magic it’s capable of.  He has the kind of rich, reassuring voice you expect to be coming at you via CBC radio or something.  There were cd’s for sale afterwards, and if it tells you anything, I’m sitting here listening to the one I bought as I write this.  And I’d better get on with it, or I’ll be hearing the 5 o’clock bells of the morning myself.

When I left the Lounge, I battled off to the Courtyard to meet my Jammy, and attend the promised Opening Night Party touted in the guide.  That seems to have been a misprint (or a hilariously blatant lie, whatever), and by 7:45 naught had happened (besides a pleasant meetup with Wayne C. as he prepped for opening night of THE PRISONER’S DILEMMA).  So, Jammy and I skedaddled to the SAW Gallery for a show I’d very much been looking forward to, Barry Smith’s EVERY JOB I’VE EVER HAD.  I caught Aspen’s B.Smith two years ago with his AMERICAN SQUATTER show, and was eager to see him again.  Smith does one-man powerpoint tell-alls about different aspects of his own bizarrely well-documented life…this one covered, well, every job he’d ever had, as you’d expect.  Starting with cleaning off an engine block for his Dad at age 5 to his current gig Fringing, Barry left nothing out.  He was every bit as charming, bright and endearing as I remembered…Barry is only too willing to hold his most humiliating past foibles up for all to see, and he’ll laugh at them right along with us.  The show hit hysterical highs and no real lows, with a masterful bit of a foreshadowed gag at the end.  Truly, this show is MUCH better than poking in shit with a stick, and then some.

Feeling good, we hurried over to the subterranean Studio Leonard-Beaulne for THE ROOF TOP GUY, a play from local company Tale Wagging Theatre. A slightly shorter piece (and, oddly, the only actual play I saw on opening day…is that weird?), Rooftop tells the morally askew story of a slightly amoral office jokester who wants to raid the office of a co-worker who has reportedly just plunged to his death…and what happens next.  There’s some good performance in here (especially, for me, Tom Charlebois as Dave…Charlebois previously knocked one out of the park in last year’s Arts Court show SHINING CITY), though the play itself seems like it could use some more work.  Not that the nearly sold-out opening crowd seemed too bothered, so what do I know?

After that show it was nearly 10:30 and I bid adieu to my Jammy, whose bedtime was approaching fast.  So was mine, but I’m not as smart as she is, so I stuck around and decided to end the night with something new.  Namely my first ever shot at ‘contemporary dance’ with the show ART DEXO.  Now, I know about as much about contemporary dance as Bill O’Reilly knows about common human decency (or, for that matter, contemporary dance), but so what?  Two years ago I didn’t give a flying fuck about theatre, not one bit…today I’m blogging about it like a lunatic, proof that good things can come from taking a small chance.  So I filed into Academic Hall, and entered what looked like it would be a pretty sparsely attended performance…though a few surprise guests showed up at the last minute.  My old pal the Crystalline Entity made a happy entrance, as well as Famous Actress Nancy Kenny (it was actually kind of a funny meeting, but you had to be there…and really, you probably were not).  The lights fell, and then…le danse!

I didn’t know what to expect from New York dance company DeXdance.  First off, I noticed these were not your typical bird-boned ballet pipecleaner princesses pirouetting about…there were some genuine muscles and curves on these ladies (and 1 gentleman), and they showed off the power and beauty in every sinew.  It took me a few minutes to warm up to the show….about until the moment when the music playing stopped making me want to kill myself (it DOES get a lot better after about 10 minutes).  It really arrived for me during a sequence when company founder Kristin Dexnis did a lengthy solo routine that left me feeling chills.  Seriously, it was amazing stuff, and I’m officially a fan.

They moved in and out of several different routines/storylines (as far as I could tell…I really stopped trying to ‘figure it out’ pretty early on and just enjoy the show), getting increasingly more elaborate and ornate, taking inspiration from Yoga routines, mythology, nature, and…fuck, Doctor Who?   I don’t have a clue, seriously.  I just liked it.  It was awesome, and criminally underattended.  Give these dancin’ fools some love already!

So that was the show, and that was opening night of Fringe.  I headed to the courtyard for a coupe of brews, palavered with Miss Jessica Ruano and Famous Actress Nancy Kenny (both of whom I have now properly met…SO cool), diligently stayed off-camera, and then ended up getting home late, and…shit, is it 3:30 already?  I gotta get to bed.   4 more shows tomorrow!  I’ll see you there, thanks for reading, and get thee to the Fringe!  Yer pal,

the Visitor


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