At last, a fucking day off! Oh, I know I’ve been taking slightly better care of myself this time around as compared to last year, but still…Fringe is starting to wear me down, and a little extra sleepytime is much appreciated. Especially appreciated was my long-overdue laundry run…finally, I can show off my BAD FLIRT tee-shirt at the courtyard. Chicks dig the BF tee, truth.
So, all cleaned and refreshed, I booted on down to the Courtyard, where I checked out my first ever edition of Playtime with HM, the so-called ‘bare-knuckle debate’ edition. Five teams of two performers/creators, squaring off against each other in mostly lighthearted debate format, topics ranging from the continued value of Bill Shakespeare to Canada’s theatrical identity. It was a fun, tho rather underattended good time, with hearty sparring from the likes of Nadine Thornhill, Brent Hirose, Al Connors, Ray Besharah, and a memorably solipsistic battle in which Mikaela Dyke took on herself. Happily, she won.
After some eats, I hit Academic Hall for the first show of my night, and my first French-language Fringe show ever, Philippe Landry’s RETOUR A PRIPYAT. Performed by Theatre de Dehors and directed by Eric Perron, it’s the story of a Russian town devastated by the Chernobyl disaster, and one man (Antoine Cote Legault as Vassili) who tries to come back afterwards, only to find the radiation-scarred Volodia (played with raspy voiced humour by Maxime Lavoie) living in his abandoned home. And watching over it all is the haunting Irina, played by Jennifer Turgeon Charest. She positively flows like water across the stage, keeping a close eye on the two men as they hunt for food, only to wind up peeling one more potato for dinner.
PRIPYAT is a slow paced, but never dull story of survival amidst death and decay in the aftermath of one of the greatest manmade disasters ever. Always maintaining a romantic, mournful tone, backed up by solid performances across the board. I was rather happy for the relaxed pace, as it allowed my own poor skills at French the chance to keep up. There’s at least one lovely twist in the show, beautiful staging, and I can happily say I had a great time at this show. More people should be seeing it.
Next I was off to Arts Court Theatre for THE WALK, a play by Catherine Cunningham-Huston and directed by Natalie Fraser-Purdy. A less than heartwarming story about the international sex-traffic trade, WALK centers on a couple of central characters: Bev Wolfe’s fiery sister Catherine Anne, and Dyna Ibrahim’s Celestine, a former sex slave seeking refugee status in Canada. Around them are several other characters, including numerous other trafficked women and the men who use the,and a playwright and director trying to help Sister Catherine turn Celestine’s story into a play.
It’s an ambitious storyline, with a lot going on in it…perhaps a little too much. There are a few different styles and techniques on display here, from straight-up theatre to maskwork, with dance making an appearance later on, and things even get meta for a little bit near the end. It’s all interesting, but for me it distracted more than a little from the important issues at the heart of it all. Thankfully, Bev Wolfe and Dyna Ibrahim as the two lead characters were shining stars in their roles, and they were well supported. The show wasn’t competely my cup of tea, which was a surprise…but then again, the show sold right out and got a standing ovation, so once again, what the fuck do I know? Maybe you should just check it out for yourself.
A trip down the stairs to SAW Gallery then, for one more show, EXS AND OHS from Piece’o Pie Productions (aka Fiona Green, Vince Leblanc-Beaudoin and Jessie Trevenna). This is one of those Fringe shows I was going to happily avoid, based on having heard nothing at all about it, and not recognizing any of the names involved. And once again, some merry pestering from the players in the beer tent turned the tides, and convinced me to go. And as predictably happens in these cases, I was happy I did.
The gang star as Wendy, Joe and Cassandra (am I remembering that right?) in a deliriously playful and very funny show about love and sex. They play with the audience, race around the room and dart in and out of doorways in true Benny-Hill fashion, deliver important lessons on the nature of couples and boob-touching…basically, they pack in a lot. And it’s an energetic show…you could keep a small amusement park going with the energy these kids give off. A clever, sexy, and really fuckin’ funny show. Recommended, and all that jazz.
Couldn’t persuade myself to do an 11 o’clock show….I really DO seem to be running out of steam. I better get my last wind quick, because I have a lot of shows planned for the final weekend. I be going out in STYLE, yo. Hope to see you all out there (and great seeing my acting coach Brie Barker there tonite!). Peace, love and soul, Fringers,
Kevin and Winston